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"Complaint to the Lord: Historical Perspectives on the African American Elderly (1996)

ISBN: 978-0945636809

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Leslie J. Pollard Sr., Ph.d

"Complaint to the Lord" provides historical perspectives on the African American elderly. Based on the assumption that Black history and culture should inform old-age policy formulation, the book combines the macro-perspective of the community taking care of its own needy, elderly with the micro-perspective of the examination of the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons (HAICP), founded in Philadelphia in 1864 by Blacks and Quakers. At the root of the African Amercan heritage was a supportive tradition that south in a variety of ways to solve gerontological problems. The core of this tradition was mutual care, based on kinship and respect patterns derived from West Africa and nurtured in the crucible of slavery where a supportive cultural tradition developed in the slave community. Old-age Homes, western in origin, offered a refuge from the public almshouse, and, through time and usage, took on their own tradition in the African American community. Beneficial associations were also formal methods derived the the multifaceted tradition of taking care of the African American elderly. But unlike Homes for the aged, these societies had African roots and provided psychological and economic security through aid to families and held out the possibility of independence in one's own home. Hired in 1948 as administrator of the HAICP, Hobart Jackson discarded the custodial philosophy that old age was a time for reflection and that old people were to be cared for by those who knew what was best for them. During his more than three decades as administrator of the Home, Jackson brought the facility into the modern era in the ferment of a growing gerontology movement and saw the institution renamed the Stephen Smith Home in 1953 and received its first White residents in 1954. Jackson used his position as a springboard to become the nations's chief advocate for the African American elderly, founding the National Caucus on Black Aged in 1970 on the grounds of the Home and becoming, Dr. Pollard's opinion, the Father of Black Gerontology.