01/23/2012 04:12 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2012

Washington Post Explores 'Black Women In America' In New Kaiser Family Foundation Survey

On the eve of President Obama's State of the Union address, The Washington Post is exploring the state of black women in America.

The paper launched the series "Black Women In America" with top billing on its January 23 edition, revealing the results of a national poll conducted with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In a post on its "She The People" blog, writer Krissah Thompson explains why The Post chose black women as the topic for its new series, pointing to the conversations that black women are having among themselves about what it means to be black in America today, Michelle Obama's influence as the country's first black First Lady and the disproportionate impact of the recent recession on black women.

Among the key findings of the survey, which was conducted via phone between October and November 2011, nearly three-quarters of African American women say now is a good time to be a black woman in America, though half of the respondents worry about being discriminated against, calling racism a "big problem" in the country. One-fifth of those surveyed say they are often treated with less respect than other people.

"Black women haven't really defined themselves," author Sophia Nelson told The Post, reportedly urging sisters to take control of their image. "We were always defined as workhorses, strong. We carry the burdens, we carry the family. We don't need. We don't want," she said.

According to the survey, however, black women are redefining their image or, at least, rethinking typical notions of success and fulfillment. Forty percent of black women said getting married is very important, compared with 55 percent of white women, while more than a fifth of black women said being wealthy is very important, compared with one in 20 white women. These numbers indicate a shift in perspective where self-empowerment is the road to happiness, and happiness does not require a mate, according to The Post.

The next part of the series, which will be published on Tuesday, January 24, will feature black women's reflections on Michelle Obama, while future releases aim to explore Black women’s assessment of self-image and the impact of the recession on their finances.

Check out more of the findings and an infographic of the survey results here.