Is the Importance of Family Heritage Fading?

After watching the film “Daughters of the Dust” directed by Julie Dash, my initial thoughts on the conclusion was that it simply was not satisfying. I thought the purpose of the film was to highlight the importance of family tradition. By having individuals such as Yellow Mary travel back to the island from their respected homes, it showed that they were trying to connect back with their family heritage. Nana is the grandmother and the elder of the family. She serves as the base for all the family traditions and memories because she has the most knowledge of family history and utilizes it in her everyday life. Yellow Mary, Eula, and Eli are the only individuals who choose to stay back with Nana and spend the rest of their time on the island. I was stunned by this development mainly because I figured all individuals would stay on the island as a result of how connected they seemed throughout the film. Whether it was family dinners, long group conversations, or one on one talks, I was very surprised that only three individuals value their family traditions enough to stay.

I feel that the conclusion of this film highlights a large scale theme in American culture where family members are beginning to leave family traditions behind for new economic opportunities. Specifically looking at African American culture, it is clear that although individuals still value their family heritage, opportunities in large cities are motivating them to leave their homes and pursue new careers. The film Daughters of the Dust can be used as evidence that the new generations are willing to leave their families in pursuit of love and new careers off the island. Even if it means breaking ties with older family members, characters like Yellow Mary are initially still willing to leave because it is what benefits them most. This theme is a common trend found throughout society today and highlights how new generations are progressing society into a new age.

The image above is taken from the film that highlights one of the instances where family members spent time together. It visually captures the theme of family heritage, and how its value might be changing in the modern world.


4 thoughts on “Is the Importance of Family Heritage Fading?

  1. Mason, your post title poses an interesting question. In my opinion, the fact that not everyone stays is how this film deviates from the picturesque Hollywood story. I’m not so sure it’s a matter of family heritage fading or not, but I suppose that depends whether someone views heritage as the people or the place.

    • Hi Cole, To support this claim, I’m thinking about how the Dash article mentioned how Dash wanted to deviate from the typical Hollywood story. Especially in the opening scenes, there are many scenes, such as the kaleidoscope scene, where Dash tries to bring forward a different perspective of the story.

  2. I also think the question you pose is really interesting. However, I was not quite as surprised as you that only three family members (not including Nana) stayed behind. I was actually quite surprised that any of them decided to stay at all. I think it is important to note that staying behind was not the only way that these characters could have showed their commitment to their heritage. I think this is a satisfying ending because they all got to follow what they believed was right for them personally while still feeling connected with their heritage and the people who stayed behind. Nana even says that her children will carry her spirit, so I prefer to not see this as a sad ending.

  3. First off, this is a great post, good job! I also agree that the ending was not satisfying, but not because they left their homes. Originally, they were brought there to do labor as slaves for their oppressor’s profit, so I can understand why they would want to leave an island that has a dark history behind it. That island was never their home, but they were still able to retain some of their culture. I was disappointed because colonization has made Africans believe and internalize the stereotypes Whites have imposed on them. There’s nothing wrong with searching out economic opportunity. However, with characters like Mr. Snead, Viola, and Haagar, they believe that their ancestry was barbaric and because a White man told them so. The ending for me would’ve been fine if they moved, but kept the traditions that Nana Peazant taught them.

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