Date of Award

Spring 1993

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 1993 Nusrat J. Bashir. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History Department

First Advisor

Marjorie Murphy


In this thesis, Nusrat Bashir examines the origins and development of pathological understandings of black motherhood in America. Bashir examines the 1956 and 1957 records of the Philadelphia-based Sheltering Arms Agency to shed light on how white middle-class values in post-World War II society were imposed on unwed black mothers, perpetuating a view of the black family as abnormal and dysfunctional. Bashir argues that this narrative is destructive and racist; instead, we need to recognize how black cultural values have developed separately from those of white society in order to tell a history of black women defined by their adaption and strength.