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This entry first reviews the historical and anthropological views about patriarchy and matriarchy that characterized European thought in the 19th century. It then examines the egalitarian values underlying the matriarchal tradition of African culture and contrasts it with the patriarchal values imposed on persons of African descent both in Africa and the Americas. It concludes with a look at some of the ways in which matriarchal values have been sustained in the United States. Paradoxically, while these values originated much earlier on the African continent, they can be seen as the basis for a way forward for people of African descent in North America today.

The concepts of matriarchy and patriarchy are related to the ways in which power is distributed in a society. ...

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