Skip to main content
Browse by:

tgiFHI: Mark Anthony Neal, "The Love Languages of Black Fatherhood"

tgiFHI logo. Black text on off-white background. Includes photo of Mark Anthony Neal.
Friday, October 21, 2022
9:30 am - 11:00 am
Mark Anthony Neal

Please join the Franklin Humanities Institute for its Friday morning series, tgiFHI!

"The Love Languages of Black Fatherhood"

Thirty years ago, Gary Chapman posited the idea of the "Five Love Languages" - "Words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch." When we think of Black men - Black fathers - we rarely think in terms of "love languages", but rather that of established stereotypes absence and shame. I was eight years old when my dad handed me my first spatula. The assignment on that Sunday morning in 1973 was a hard fried egg, then pancakes and soon I was a veteran of the fried baloney sandwich. For this undereducated, working-class Black man, who toiled six-days a week as a short-order-cook, food, or rather the cooking of food, was one of his love languages - it was how he made himself present.

In this talk I document how the shifting presentation of men in a patriarchal society has forced Black men to play catch up each time the goal post of cultural expectations moves. I use historical context, personal reflection and data to argue that American culture does not have enough language to adequately understand or describe Black fatherhood. This project aims to both highlight the language that already exists and to add language to the cultural conversation that helps people recognize and acknowledge the presence of the Black father.


Mark Anthony Neal is James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African & African American Studies, Professor of English, and Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, where he teaches courses on Black Popular Culture including signature courses on the history of Black Humor, Black Masculinity, and the Motown & American Culture. Neal is the author of six books including the just published Black Ephemera: The Crisis and Challenge of the Musical Archive, What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Public Culture (1999).

At Duke, Neal directs the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship (CADCE) which produces original digital content, including the weekly video podcast Left of Black, produced in collaboration with the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke. A native of the Bronx, NY, he received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his M.A. and B.A. from the State University of New York at Fredonia. He resides in Durham with his wife and two daughters.

Register here: