During slavery, a black child was more likely to grow up with both parents than he or she is today.

That shocking statement from the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) in part underscores why the organization recently launched a campaign called “What’s Your Legacy” to encourage African American fathers between ages 18 and 40 to think about the benefits of marriage for their children.

NFI noted the following statistics about African American families–only 35 percent of African American children today live with married parents; married couples head 76 percent of American families but only 47.9 percent of African American families. In fact, black families are less likely that all ethnic groups to contain a married couple.

The statistics also found that children with married parents do better–they have lower rates of delinquency, youth crime and use of alcohol and drugs. They also had higher educational attainments, jobs status and marital stability.

NFI also discovered through focus groups that young African American men have a very different view about marriage and fathers. Among the comments heard were “marriage is for white people,” “marriage has nothing to do with being a father,” “marriage just doesn’t work for us any more.”

What’s Your Legacy is out to change these viewpoints and to educate about the real benefits to African American children of living in a two-parent environment. As part of its efforts, the campaign highlights three fathers who have been married more than 10 years and have children–the Parris, Turner and Jiggetts families.

Additionally the organization has launched a web site–www.legacy.fatherhood.org–that provides information on preparing for marriage, strengthening a marriage, as well as fatherhood and marriage. It also allows people through a legacy wall to tell their own stories.

The overall goal is to demonstrate that successful and fulfilling marriages do exist within in the African American community and that children benefit from living with married parents.