Research effects of father absence



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This child was born in Georgia in 1919, the youngest of five children. His father was a poor sharecropper, earning $12 a month for working another man's farmland. His mother worked as a maid. Shortly after the child's birth, his father abandoned the family, heading for Florida, and was never heard from again.

Unable to continue supporting the family in Georgia, his mother took her five children, along with her own sister, her sister's husband, their two children, and three friends on a train to California, where a relative had an apartment for them to stay in a bad part of town. She continued to work as a domestic six days a week, and the children were often left alone to fend for themselves.

The child attended a public elementary school and then a vocational high school, wearing hand-me-down clothes. He was not a stellar student. He even joined a local gang, and he and his friends sometimes entertained themselves by throwing rocks at passersby, and playing other pranks. Sometimes they would sneak onto a local golf course to steal balls, which they then sold back to the golfers. Although he did get a paper route to earn money, sometimes he and his friends just stole things, and often what they stole was food.

When he finished high school, he went to a local junior college. Later he attended the state university on a scholarship, where he met the woman who became his life-long partner and wife, and the mother of his three children. He was forced to leave college before graduation, however, because he simply did not have enough money, even with the scholarship, to finish his studies.

After he left college, he worked for a little while, and then joined the Army, where he rose to become a lieutenant within two years, but where he also nearly became court-martialed when he defied a rule he thought was unjust and discriminatory.

In his later life, this child fought against other discriminatory laws, fighting racism in everything he did. He worked with Malcolm X as well as Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement. He testified against discrimination before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He also worked for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, authored numerous newspaper articles, and was a television commentator.

After his death from a heart attack as a relatively young man, his wife established a foundation in his honor to help gifted young persons in need of scholarships and and other kinds of assistance.

The inscription on his grave reads:

"A life is not important except in the line of impact it has on other lives."

In a speech about him President Nixon said that he had brought a sense of brotherhood "to every area of American life where black and white people work side by side."

This child was UCLA's first four-letter athlete, the first person to be awarded all three of baseball's highest honors, one of the greatest athletes of all time, and perhaps best known as the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball:

Jack Roosevelt Robinson, aka Jackie Robinson, a boy from a "fatherless home."

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* The term "fatherless" is used in this series as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.

"...Just add Dad, the magic ingredient. It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..." Mike Peterson



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