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Female slavery in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The institution of slavery in North America existed from the earliest years of the colonial period until 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment permanently abolished slavery throughout the entire United States. It was also abolished among the sovereign Indian tribes in Indian Territory by new peace treaties which the US required after the war.

For most of the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth centuries, male slaves outnumbered female slaves, making the two groups' experiences in the colonies distinct. Living and working in a wide range of circumstances and regions, African-American women and men encountered diverse experiences of enslavement. With increasing numbers of kidnapped African women, as well as those born into slavery in the colonies, slave sex ratios leveled out between 1730 and 1750. "The uniqueness of the African-American female's situation is that she stands at the crossroads of two of the most well-developed ideologies in America, that regarding women and that regarding the Negro."[1] Living both female and black identities, enslaved African women faced both racism and sexism.

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  • ✪ Slavery - Crash Course US History #13
  • ✪ The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you - Anthony Hazard
  • ✪ The Atlantic Slave Trade: Crash Course World History #24
  • ✪ Slavery in the 13 Colonies Explained
  • ✪ Ancient Roman Slavery and American Slavery

Transcription

Episode 13 – Slavery Hi, I’m John Green. This is Crashcourse U.S. history and today we’re gonna to talk about slavery, which is not funny. Yeah, so we put a lei on the eagle to try to cheer you up, but, let’s face it, this is going to be depressing. With slavery, every time you think, like, “Oh, it couldn’t have been that bad,” it turns out to have been much worse. Mr. Green, Mr. Green, but what about-- Yeah, Me from the Past, I’m gonna stop you right there because you’re going to embarrass yourself. Slavery was hugely important to America. I mean, it led to a civil war. And it also lasted what at least in U.S. history counts as a long ass time—from 1619 to 1865 And, yes, I know there’s a 1,200 year old church in your neighborhood in Denmark, but we’re not talking about Denmark! But slavery is most important because we still struggle with its legacy. So, yes, today’s episode will probably not be funny. But it will be important. INTRO So, the slave-based economy in the South is sometimes characterized as having been separate from the market revolution, but that’s not really the case. Without southern cotton, the north wouldn’t have been able to industrialize, at least not as quickly, because cotton textiles were one of the first industrially produced products and the most important commodity in world trade by the 19th century. And ¾ of the world’s cotton came from the American South. And, speaking of cotton, why has no one mentioned to me that my collar has been half-popped this entire episode, like I’m trying to recreate the flying nun’s hat? And although there were increasingly fewer slaves in the North as northern states outlawed slavery, cotton shipments overseas made Northern merchants rich, northern bankers financed the purchase of land for plantations. Northern insurance companies insured slaves, who were, after all considered property and very valuable property. And, in addition to turning cotton into cloth for sale overseas, northern manufacturers sold cloth back to the south where it was used to clothe the very slaves who had cultivated it. But certainly the most prominent effects of the slave-based economy were seen in the South. The profitability of slave-based agriculture, especially “King Cotton,” meant that the south would remain largely agricultural and rural. Slave states were home to a few cities, like St. Louis and Baltimore, but with the exception of New Orleans, almost all southern urbanization took place in the Upper South, further away from the large cotton plantations. And slave-based agriculture was so profitable that it siphoned money away from other economic endeavors. Like, there was very little industry in the South – it produced only 10% of the nation’s manufactured goods, and as most of the capital was being plowed into the purchase of slaves, there was very little room for technological innovation like, for instance, railroads. This lack of industry and railroads would eventually make the south suck at the civil war, thankfully. In short, slavery dominated the south, shaping it both economically and culturally. And, slavery wasn’t a minor aspect of American society. By 1860, there were 4 million slaves in the U.S., and in the South, they made up 1/3 of the total population. Although in the popular imagination, most plantations were these sprawling affairs with hundreds of slaves, in reality the majority of slave-holders owned five or fewer slaves. And of course, most white people in the south owned no slaves at all, although if they could afford to, they would sometimes rent slaves to help with their work. These were the so-called “yeoman” farmers who lived self-sufficiently, raised their own food and purchased very little in the market economy. They worked the poorest land and as a result were mostly pretty poor themselves. But even they largely supported slavery, partly perhaps for aspirational reasons and partly because the racism inherent to the system gave even the poorest whites legal and social status. And southern intellectuals worked hard to encourage these ideas of white solidarity and to make the case for slavery. Many of the founders, a bunch of whom you’ll remember held slaves, saw slavery as a necessary evil. Jefferson once wrote, “As it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” The belief that justice and self-preservation couldn’t sit on the same side of the scale was really opposed the American idea and, in the end, it would make the civil war inevitable. But as slavery became more entrenched – and as ideas of liberty and political equality were embraced by more people – some Southerners began to make the case that slavery wasn’t just a necessary evil. They argued, for instance, that slaves benefited from slavery. Because, you know, their masters fed them and clothed them and took care of them in their old age. You still hear this argument today, astonishingly. In fact, you’ll probably see asshats in the comments saying that. I will remind you, it’s not cursing if you are referring to an actual ass. This paternalism allowed masters to see themselves as benevolent, and to contrast their family oriented slavery with the cold mercenary capitalism of the free labor north. So, yeah, in the face of rising criticism of slavery, some Southerners began to argue that the institution was actually good for the social order. One of the best-known proponents of this view was John C. Calhoun who, in 1837 said this in a speech on the Senate floor: “I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good — a positive good.” John: Now, of course, John C. Calhoun was a fringe politician and nobody took his views particularly seriously … Stan: Well, he was secretary of state from 1844 to 1845. John: Well, I mean, who really cares about the Secretary of State, Stan … Danica: Ehh, also Secretary of War from 1817 to 1825. John: Alright, but we don’t even have a Secretary of War anymore. Meredith: And he was Vice President from 1825 to 1832. John: Oh my God, were we insane? We were, of course. But we justified the insanity—with biblical passages and with the examples of the Greeks and Romans and with outright racism, arguing that black people were inherently inferior to whites and that NOT to keep them in slavery would upset the natural order of things, a worldview popularized millennia ago by my nemesis, Aristotle. God, I hate Aristotle. You know what defenders of Aristotle always say? He was the first person to identify dolphins. Well, okay. Dolphin-identifier. Yes, that is what he should be remembered for, but he’s a terrible philosopher. Here’s the truth about slavery: It was coerced labor that relied upon intimidation and brutality and dehumanization. And this wasn’t just a cultural system, it was a legal one. I mean, Louisiana law proclaimed that a slave “owes his master…a respect without bounds, and an absolute obedience.” The signal feature of slaves’ lives was work. I mean, conditions and tasks varied, but all slaves labored, usually from sunup to sundown, and almost always without any pay. Most slaves worked in agriculture on plantations and conditions were different depending on which crops were grown. Like, slaves on the rice plantations of South Carolina had terrible working conditions but they labored under the task system, which meant that once they had completed their allotted daily work, they would have time to do other things. But lest you imagine this as like how we have work and leisure time, bear in mind that they were owned and treated as property. On cotton plantations, most slaves worked in gangs, usually under the control of an overseer or another slave who was called a driver. This was backbreaking work done in the southern sun and humidity and so it’s not surprising that whippings or the threat of them were often necessary to get slaves to work. It’s easy enough to talk about the brutality of slave discipline, but it can be difficult to internalize it. Like, you look at these pictures, but because you’ve seen them over and over again, they don’t have the power they once might have. The pictures can tell a story about cruelty, but they don’t necessarily communicate how arbitrary it all was. As for example in this story told by a woman who was a slave as a young girl. “[The] overseer … went to my father one morning and said, “Bob, I’m gonna whip you this morning.” Daddy said, “I ain’t done nothing,” and he said “I know it, I’m going to whip you to keep you from doing nothing,” and he hit him with that cowhide – you know it would cut the blood out of you with every lick if they hit you hard.” That brutality – the whippings, the brandings, the rape – was real and it was intentional because in order for slavery to function, slaves had to be dehumanized. This enabled slaveholders to rationalize what they were doing and, it was hoped, to reduce slaves to the animal property that is implied by the term “chattel slavery.” So the idea was that slaveholders wouldn’t think of their slaves as human. And slaves wouldn’t think of themselves as human. But, it didn’t work. But more importantly, slaveowners were never able to convince the slaves themselves that they were anything less than human. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Slaves resistance to their dehumanization took many forms, but the primary way was by forming families. Family was a refuge for slaves and a source of dignity that masters recognized and sought to stifle. A paternalistic slaveowner named Bennett H. Barrow wrote in his rules for the Highland Plantation: “No rule that I have stated is of more importance than that relating to Negroes marrying outside of the plantation … It creates a feeling of independence.” Most slaves did marry, usually for life, and when possible, slaves grew up in two-parent households. Single parent households were common, though, as a result of one parent being sold. In the Upper South, where the economy was shifting from tobacco to different, less labor-intensive cash crops, the sale of slaves was common. Perhaps 1/3 of slave marriages in states like Virginia were broken up by sale. Religion was also an important part of life in slavery. While masters wanted their slaves to learn the parts of the Bible that talked about being happy in bondage, slave worship tended to focus on the stories of Exodus, where Moses brought the slaves out of bondage, or Biblical heroes who overcame great odds, like Daniel and David. And although most slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write, many did anyway, and some became preachers. Slave preachers were often very charismatic leaders, and they roused the suspicion of slave owners, and not without reason. Two of the most important slave uprisings in the south were led by preachers. Thanks, Thought Bubble. Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document? We’re doing two set pieces in a row? Alright...The rules here are simple. I wanted to reshoot that, but Stan said no. I guess the author of the Mystery Document. If I am wrong, I get shocked with the shock pen. “Since I have been in the Queen’s dominions I have been well contented, Yes well contented for Sure, man is as God intended he should be. That is, all are born free and equal. This is a wholesome law, not like the Southern laws which puts man made in the image of God on level with brutes. O, what will become of the people, and where will they stand in the day of Judgment. Would that the 5th verse of the 3rd chapter of Malachi were written as with a bar of iron, and the point of a diamond upon every oppressor’s heart that they might repent of this evil, and let the oppressed go free…” Alright, it’s definitely a preacher, because only preachers have read Malachi. Probably African American. Probably not someone from the south. I’m going to guess that it is Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church? Dang it! It’s Joseph Taper? And Stan just pointed out to me that I should have known it was Joseph Taper because it starts out, “Since I have been in the Queen’s dominions.” He was in Canada. He escaped slavery to Canada. The Queen’s dominions! Alright, Canadians, I blame you for this. Although thank you for abolishing slavery decades before we did. AH! So the mystery document shows one of the primary ways that slaves resisted their oppression: by running away. Although some slaves, like Joseph Taper, escaped slavery for good by running away to Northern free states or even to Canada where they wouldn’t have to worry about fugitive slave laws, even more slaves ran away temporarily, hiding out in the woods or the swamps and eventually returning. No one knows exactly how many slaves escaped to freedom, but the best estimate is that 1,000 or so a year made the journey northwards. Most fugitive slaves were young men, but the most famous runaway has been hanging out behind me all day long, Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman escaped to Philadelphia at the age of 29 and over the course of her life she made about 20 trips back to Maryland to help friends and relatives make the journey north on the Underground Railroad. But a most dramatic form of resistance to slavery was actual armed rebellion, which was attempted. Now individuals sometimes took matters into their own hands and beat or sometimes even killed their white overseers or masters, like “Bob,” the guy who received the arbitrary beating, responded to it by killing his overseer with a hoe. But that said, large-scale slave uprisings were relatively rare. The four most famous ones all took place in a 35 year period at the beginning of the 19th century. Gabriel’s rebellion in 1800, which we talked about before, was discovered before he was able to carry out his plot. Then, in 1811 a group of slaves upriver from New Orleans seized cane knives and guns and marched on the city before militia stopped them. And, in 1822 Denmark Vesey, a former slave who had purchased his freedom may have organized a plot to destroy Charleston, South Carolina. I say may have because the evidence against him is disputed and comes from a trial that was not fair. But, regardless, the end result of that trial is that he was executed as were 34 slaves. But, the most successful slave rebellion, at least in the sense that they actually killed some people, was Nat Turner’s in August 1831. Turner, was a preacher and with a group of about 80 slaves, he marched from farm to farm in Southampton County Virginia killing the inhabitants, most of whom were women and children because the men were attending a religious revival meeting in North Carolina. Turner and 17 other rebels were captured and executed, but not before they struck terror into the hearts of whites all across the American south. Virginia’s response was to make slavery worse, passing even harsher laws that forbade slaves from preaching and prohibited teaching them to read. Other slave states followed Virginia’s lead and by the 1830s, slavery had grown if anything more harsh. So this shows that large-scale armed resistance was, Django Unchained aside, not just suicidal but also a threat to loved ones, and really to all slaves. But it is hugely important to emphasize that slaves DID resist their oppression. Sometimes this meant taking up arms, but usually it meant more subtle forms of resistance, like intentional work slowdowns, or sabotaging equipment, or pretending not to understand instructions. And, most importantly, in the face of systematic, legal, and cultural degradation they reaffirmed their humanity through family and through faith. Why is this so important? Because too often in America we still talk about slaves as if they failed to rise up, when in fact rising up would not have made life better for them or for their families. The truth is, sometimes carving out an identity as a human being in a social order that is constantly seeking to dehumanize you is the most powerful form of resistance. Refusing to become the chattel that their masters believed them to be is what made slavery untenable, and the Civil War inevitable. So make no mistake: Slaves fought back. And in the end, they won. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. The script supervisor is Meredith Danko. Our associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Café. Every week, there’s a new caption to the libertage, but today’s episode was so sad that we couldn’t fit a libertage in UNTIL NOW. Suggest libertage captions in comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be abolitionist. CCUS 13 -

Contents

Colonial America

Virginia

The Old Plantation, c. 1790. Enslaved Africans on a South Carolinan plantation.
The Old Plantation, c. 1790. Enslaved Africans on a South Carolinan plantation.

From 1700 to 1740 an estimated number of 43,000 slaves were imported into Virginia, and almost all but 4,000 were imported directly from Africa.[2] Recent scholarship suggests that the number of women and men imported in this period was more or less equal and included a high number of children.[2] As most were from West Africa, its cultures were central in mid- to late- eighteenth-century slave life in Virginia. African values were prevalent and West African women's cultures had strong representations. Some prevalent cultural representations were the deep and powerful bonds between mother and child, and among women within the larger female community.[3] Among the Igbo ethnic group in particular (from present-day Nigeria), which comprised between one-third and one-half of incoming slaves in the early eighteenth century, female authority (the omu) "ruled on a wide variety of issues of important to women in particular and the community as a whole."[4] The Igbo represented one group of people brought to the Chesapeake, but in general, Africans came from an extremely diverse range of cultural backgrounds. All came from worlds where women's communities were strong,[5] and were introduced into a patriarchal and violently racist and exploitative society; white men typically characterized all black women as passionately sexual, to justify their sexual abuse and miscegenation.[6]

Virginia girls, much less black girls, were not educated, and most were illiterate. African and African American female slaves occupied a broad range of positions. The southern colonies were majorly agrarian societies and enslaved women provided labor in the fields, planting and doing chores, but mostly in the domestic sphere, nursing, taking care of children, cooking, laundering, etc.[7]

New England

Jersey Negro (1748), John Greenwood. This portrait of Ann Arnold was the first individual portrait of a black woman in North America. Ann Arnold was the wet nurse of a child whose parents were born in the English isle of Jersey.  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Jersey Negro (1748), John Greenwood. This portrait of Ann Arnold was the first individual portrait of a black woman in North America. Ann Arnold was the wet nurse of a child whose parents were born in the English isle of Jersey. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Historian Ira Berlin distinguished between "slave societies" and "societies with slaves." New England was considered to be a society with slaves, dependent on maritime trade and diversified agriculture, in contrast to the slave societies of the south, which were "socially, economically, and politically dependent on slave labor, had a large enslaved population, and allowed masters extensive power over their slaves unchecked by the law."[8] New England had a small slave population and masters thought of themselves as patriarchs with the duty to protect, guide, and care for their slaves.[8] Enslaved women in New England had greater opportunity to seek freedom than in other regions because of "the New England legal system, the frequency of manumission by owners, and chances for hiring out, especially among enslaved men, who seized the opportunity to earn enough money to purchase a wife and children."[9]

Enslaved women largely occupied traditional "women's work" roles and were often hired out by the day. They worked mainly as maids, in the kitchen, the barn, and the garden. They did menial and servile tasks: polished family silver or furniture, helped with clothes and hair, drew baths, barbered the men, and completed menial domestic chores like sweeping, emptying chamber pots, carrying gallons of water a day, washing the dishes, brewing, looking after young children and the elderly, cooking and baking, milking the cows, feeding the chickens, spinning, knitting, carding, sewing, and laundering.[9] Their daily work was less demanding than the field labor of enslaved women in other regions. Nonetheless enslaved women in New England worked hard, often under poor living conditions and malnutrition. "As a result of heavy work, poor housing conditions, and inadequate diet, the average black woman did not live past forty."[10]

Enslaved women were given to white women as gifts from their husbands, and as wedding and Christmas gifts.[10] The idea that New England masters treated their slaves with greater kindness in comparison to southern slave-owners is a myth. They had little mobility freedom and lacked access to education and any training. "The record of slaves who were branded by their owners, had their ears nailed, fled, committed suicide, suffered the dissolution of their families, or were sold secretly to new owners in Barbados in the last days of the Revolutionary War before they become worthless seems sufficient to refute the myth of kindly masters. They lashed out at their slaves when they were angry, filled with rage, or had convenient access to horsewhip."[11] Female slaves were sometimes forced by their masters into sexual relationships with enslaved men for the purpose of forced breeding. It was also not uncommon for enslaved women to be raped and in some cases impregnated by their masters.[citation needed]

Southern colonies

No matter where they lived, slaves endured hard and demeaning lives, but labor in the southern colonies was most severe. The southern colonies were slave societies; they were "socially, economically, and politically dependent on slave labor, had a large enslaved population, and allowed masters extensive power over their slaves unchecked by the law."[8] Plantations were the economic power structure of the South, and male and female slave labor was its foundation. Early on, slaves in the South worked primarily in agriculture, on farms and plantations growing indigo, rice, and tobacco; cotton became a major crop after the 1790s. Female slaves worked in a wide variety of capacities. They were expected to do field work as well as have children, and in this way increase the slave population. In the years before the American Revolution, the female slave population grew mainly as a result of natural increase and not importation. "Once slaveholders realized that the reproductive function of the female slave could yield a profit, the manipulation of procreative sexual relations became an integral part of the sexual exploitation of female slaves."[12] Many slave women raised their children without much assistance from males. Enslaved women were counted on not only to do their house and field work, but also to bear, nourish, and rear the children whom slaveholders sought to continually replenish their labor force. As houseslaves, women were domestic servants: cooking, sewing, acting as maids, and rearing the planter's children. Later on they were used in many factories, instrumental in the development of the United States, where they were kept at lower maintenance costs.[citation needed]

Revolutionary Era

During the Revolutionary War (1775–83) enslaved women served on both sides, the Loyalist army as well as the Patriots', as nurses, laundresses, and cooks. But as historian Carol Berkin writes, "African American loyalties were to their own future, not to Congress or to king."[13] Enslaved women could be found in army camps and as camp followers. They worked building roads, constructing fortifications, and laundering uniforms, "but they remained slaves rather than refugees. Masters usually hired these women out to the military, sometimes hiring out their children as well."[14] Enslaved women could also be found working in the shops, homes, fields, and plantations of every American colony. It is estimated that by 1770, there were more than 47,000 enslaved blacks in the northern colonies, almost 20,000 of them in New York. More than 320,000 slaves worked in the Chesapeake colonies, making 37 percent of the population of the region African or African American. Over 187,000 of these slaves were in Virginia. In the Lower South there were more than 92,000 slaves. South Carolina alone had over 75,000 slaves, and by 1770 planters there were importing 4,000 Africans a year. In many counties in the Lower South, the slave population outnumbered the white.[15]

Although service in the military did not guarantee enslaved people their freedom, black men had the opportunity to escape slavery by enlisting in the army. During the disruption of war, both men and women ran away. Men were more likely to escape, as pregnant women, mothers, and women who nursed their elderly parents or friends seldom abandoned those who depended on them.[16] So many slaves deserted their plantations in South Carolina, that there were not enough field hands to plant or harvest crops. As food grew scarce, the blacks who remained behind suffered from starvation or enemy attack. The British issued certificates of manumission to more than 914 women as reward for serving in the Loyalist army.[17] But many women who had won their freedom lost it again "through violence and trickery and the venality of men entrusted with their care."[18] Others who managed to secure their freedom faced racial prejudice, discrimination, and poverty. When loyalist plantations were captured, enslaved women were often taken and sold for the soldiers' profit.[14] The British did keep promises to black slaves, evacuating them along with troops in the closing days of the war, and resettling more than 3,000 Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia, and others in the Caribbean, and England. In 1792 it established Freetown, in what is now Sierra Leone, as a colony for Poor Blacks from London, as well as Black Loyalists from Canada who wanted to relocate.

One of the most well-known voices for freedom around the Revolutionary era was Phillis Wheatley of Massachusetts. She was a slave for most of her life but was given freedom by her master. Educated in Latin, Greek, and English, Wheatley wrote a collection of poems which asserted that Africans, as children of God just like Europeans, deserved respect and freedom.[citation needed]

In 1777, Vermont drafted a state constitution that prohibited the institution of slavery. In 1780 Massachusetts a state judge declared slavery to be unconstitutional according to the state's new bill of rights, which declared "all men...free and equal." Slavery effectively ended in Massachusetts with this ruling in a freedom suit by Quock Walker. This led to an increase of enslaved men and women suing for their freedom in New England. Also in 1780 in Pennsylvania, the legislature enacted "a gradual emancipation law that directly connected the ideals of the Revolution with the rights of the African Americans to freedom."[19] In the South, the immediate legacy of the Revolution was increased manumission by slaveholders in the first two decades after the war. But, the invention of the cotton gin enabled widespread cultivation of short-staple cotton, and with the opening up of southwestern lands to cotton and sugar production, demand for slaves increased. Legislatures made emancipation difficult to gain, and they passed harsher laws regulating African-American lives.[20]

Antebellum Period

"Slaves Waiting for Sale." Women and children slaves wait to be sold in Richmond, Virginia in the 19th century. Painted upon the sketch of 1853.
"Slaves Waiting for Sale." Women and children slaves wait to be sold in Richmond, Virginia in the 19th century. Painted upon the sketch of 1853.

As historian Deborah Gray White explains, "Black in a white society, slave in a free society, woman in a society ruled by men, female slaves had the least formal power and were perhaps the most vulnerable group of Americans."[21]

The mother-daughter relationship was often the most enduring and cherished within the African-American complex of relations.[22] Relatively few women were runaways, and when they did run, they sometimes escaped with their children. Historian Martha Saxton writes about enslaved mothers' experiences in St. Louis in the antebellum period: "In Marion County, north of St. Louis, a slave trader bought three small children from an owner, but the children's mother killed them all and herself rather than let them be taken away. A St. Louis trader took a crying baby from its mother, both on their way to be sold, and made a gift of it to a white woman standing nearby because its noise was bothering him."[23] Another way these generational connections can be seen, is through song. Often songs about slavery and women's experiences during their enslavement were passed down through generations.[24] African-American Women Work Songs are historical snapshots of lived experience and survival.[25] Songs speak of families being torn apart and the emotional turmoil that enslaved women were put through by slavery. Songs add the legacy of oral tradition that fosters generational knowledge about historical periods. Little girls as young as seven were frequently sold away from their mothers:

"Mary Bell was hired out by the year to take care of three children starting when she was seven. John Mullanphy noted that he had living with him a four-year-old mulatto girl, whom he willed to the Sisters of Charity in the event of his death. George Morton sold his daughter Ellen 'a certain Mulatto girl a slave about fourteen years of age named Sally, being the child of a certain Negro woman named Ann'."[23] In 1854 Georgia was the first and only state to pass a law that put conditions of sales that separated mothers and their children. Children under five could not be sold away from their mothers, "unless such division cannot in any wise be [e]ffected without such separation.'"[23]

In 1848 Ellen Craft, of mixed-race, posed as a white man to escape from slavery.
In 1848 Ellen Craft, of mixed-race, posed as a white man to escape from slavery.

Slave girls in North America often worked within the domestic sphere, providing household help. White families sought the help of a "girl", an "all-purpose tool" in family life.[26] Although the word "girl" applied to any working female without children, slaves were preferred because in the long run they cost less. These enslaved girls were usually very young, anywhere from nine years of age to their mid-teens. Heavy household work was assigned to the "girl" and was therefore stigmatized as "negroes’" work. A "girl" was an essential source of help to white families, rural and urban, middle class and aspiring. She provided freedom for daughters to devote themselves to their self-development and relieved mothers from exhausting labor, while requiring no financial or emotional maintenance, "no empathy."[26]

In antebellum America, as in the past (from the initial African-European contact in North America), black women were deemed to be governed by their libidos and portrayed as "Jezebel character[s]...in every way the counterimage of the mid-nineteenth-century ideal of the Victorian lady."[27]

Enslaved women in every state of the antebellum union considered freedom, but it was a livelier hope in the North than in most of the South. Many slaves sought their freedom through self-purchase, the legal system of freedom suits, and as runaways, sometimes resulting in the separation of children and parents. "Unfinished childhoods and brutal separations punctuated the lives of most African American girls, and mothers dreamed of freedom that would not impose more losses on their daughters."[28]

Antebellum South

Eastman Johnson's 1859 painting "Negro Life at the South" subtly portrays relationships of white male masters and their female slaves.
Eastman Johnson's 1859 painting "Negro Life at the South" subtly portrays relationships of white male masters and their female slaves.

After the Revolution, Southern plantation owners imported a massive number of new slaves from Africa and the Caribbean until the United States banned the import of slaves in 1808. More importantly, more than one million slaves were transported in a forced migration in the domestic slave trade, from the Upper South to the Deep South, most by slave traders—either overland where they were held for days in chained coffles, or by the coastwise trade and ships. The majority of slaves in the Deep South, men and women, worked on cotton plantations. Cotton was the leading cash crop during this time, but slaves also worked on rice, corn, sugarcane, and tobacco plantations, clearing new land, digging ditches, cutting and hauling wood, slaughtering livestock, and making repairs to buildings and tools. Black women also cared for their children and managed the bulk of the housework and domestic chores. Living with the dual burdens of racism and sexism, enslaved women in the South held roles within the family and community that contrasted sharply with more traditional or upper class American women's roles.[29]

Young girls generally started working well before boys, with many working before age seven.[30] Although field work was traditionally considered to be "men's work," different estimates conclude that between 63-80 percent of women worked in the fields.[31] Adult female work depended greatly upon plantation size. On small farms, women and men performed similar tasks, while on larger plantations, males were given more physically demanding work. Few of the chores performed by enslaved women took them off the plantation. Therefore they were less mobile than enslaved men, who often assisted their masters in the transportation of crops, supplies, and other materials, and were often hired out as artisans and craftsmen.[32] Women also worked in the domestic sphere as servants, cooks, seamstresses, and nurses. Although a female slave's labor in the field superseded childrearing in importance, the responsibilities of childbearing and childcare greatly circumscribed the life of an enslaved woman. This also explains why female slaves were less likely to run away than men.[33]

Many female slaves were the object of severe sexual exploitation; often bearing the children of their white masters, master's sons, or overseers. Black women were prohibited from defending themselves against any type of abuse, including sexual, at the hands of white men. If a slave attempted to defend herself, she was often subjected to further beatings by the master or even by the mistress.[34] The black female, woman or child, was forced into sexual relationships for the white slave master's pleasure and profit; attempting to keep the slave population growing by his own doing, and not by importing more slaves from Africa. Even Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, is believed to have fathered six mixed-race children (four survived to adulthood) with one of his female slaves, Sally Hemings, a woman of three-quarters European ancestry and half-sister to his late wife, who served as the widower's concubine for more than two decades. In the case of Harriet Ann Jacobs, author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, her master, Dr. James Norcom, had sexually harassed her for years. Even after she had two children of her own, he threatened to sell them if she denied his sexual advances.[citation needed]

Emancipation and the ending of slavery

Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. The decree offered enslaved men a path to freedom through military service. However it wasn't until the Act of 1861 where women found their freedom as they were no longer declared property of the Confederates in the south.[35] In 1868, the 14th Amendment extended citizenship rights to African Americans."The Powers of Congress to Enforce the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments". University of Missouri - Kansas City, School of Law. April 27, 2013.

Notable survivors

Sojourner Truth circa 1864
Sojourner Truth circa 1864
  • Lucy Terry (c. 1730–1821) is the author of the oldest known work of literature by an African American.
  • Phillis Wheatley (May 8, 1753 – December 5, 1784) was the first African-American poet and first African-American woman to publish a book.
  • Margaret Garner (called Peggy) was an enslaved African American woman in pre-Civil War United States who was notorious—or celebrated—for killing her own daughter after being captured following her escape, rather than allowing the child to be returned to slavery.
  • Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York. In 1826, she escaped with her infant daughter to freedom. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on gender inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?", was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves.
  • Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Harriet Ross; 1820 – March 10, 1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made more than thirteen missions to rescue more than 70 slaves; she guided refugees along the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women's suffrage.
  • Ellen Craft (1826–1897) was a slave from Macon, Georgia who posed as a white male planter to escape from slavery. She escaped to the North in December 1848 by travelling openly by train and steamboat with her husband, who acted as her slave servant; they reached Philadelphia and freedom on Christmas Day.

See also

References

  1. ^ White, Deborah Gray (1999). Ar’n't I a Woman (sic). New York City. p. 27.
  2. ^ a b Saxton, Martha, Being Good: Women's Moral Values in Early America, New York City, 2003, 121
  3. ^ Saxton, Martha, Being Good: Women's Moral Values in Early America, New York City, 2003, 122-123
  4. ^ Saxton (2003), Being Good, p. 122
  5. ^ Saxton (2003), Being Good, p. 124
  6. ^ Saxton (2003), Being Good, p. 125
  7. ^ Rutagarama, Naomi. "Female Slavery In The South". Prezi. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Retrieved 12/09/13. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  8. ^ a b c Catherine Adams and Elizabeth H. Pleck. "The Uniqueness of New England," Love of Freedom, New York, City, 29.
  9. ^ a b Catherine Adams and Elizabeth H. Pleck. "The Uniqueness of New England," Love of Freedom, New York, City, 30.
  10. ^ a b Catherine Adams and Elizabeth H. Pleck. "The Uniqueness of New England," Love of Freedom, New York, City, 35.
  11. ^ Catherine Adams and Elizabeth H. Pleck. "The Uniqueness of New England," Love of Freedom, New York, City, 36.
  12. ^ White, Deborah Gray. Ar'n't I a Woman, New York City, 1999, 67-68.
  13. ^ Carol Berkin, "African American Women and the American Revolution," Revolutionary Mothers, New York, 2005, 120.
  14. ^ a b Carol Berkin, "African American Women and the American Revolution," Revolutionary Mothers, New York, 2005, 131.
  15. ^ Carol Berkin, "African American Women and the American Revolution," Revolutionary Mothers, New York, 2005, 121.
  16. ^ Carol Berkin, "African American Women and the American Revolution," Revolutionary Mothers, New York, 2005, 122.
  17. ^ Carol Berkin, "African American Women and the American Revolution," Revolutionary Mothers, New York, 2005, 128.
  18. ^ Carol Berkin, "African American Women and the American Revolution," Revolutionary Mothers, New York, 2005, 134.
  19. ^ Carol Berkin, "African American Women and the American Revolution," Revolutionary Mothers, New York, 2005, 132.
  20. ^ Carol Berkin, "African American Women and the American Revolution," Revolutionary Mothers, New York, 2005, 133.
  21. ^ White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n't I a Woman, New York City, 1999, 15.
  22. ^ White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n't I a Woman, New York City, 1999, 107.
  23. ^ a b c Saxton (2003), Being Good, p. 185
  24. ^ Jackson, Gale P., “Rosy, Possum, Morning Star: African American Women’s Work and Play Songs”: An Excerpt From Put Your Hands on Your Hips and Act Like a Woman: Song, Dance, Black History and Poetics in Performance. Journal of Black Studies Vol. 46(8) 2015: 773-796.
  25. ^ Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, 2000.
  26. ^ a b Saxton, Martha, Being Good: Women's Moral Values in Early America, New York City, 2003, 186
  27. ^ White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n't I a Woman, New York City, 1999, 29.
  28. ^ Saxton, Martha, Being Good: Women's Moral Values in Early America, New York City, 2003, 183
  29. ^ White, Debra. "Ar'n't I a Woman (sic)". Retrieved 12/09/13. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  30. ^ Steckel, Richard, "Women, Work, and Health Under Plantation Slavery in the United States," More than Chattel. Indiana University Press, 1996, 44.
  31. ^ Steckel, Richard, "Women, Work, and Health Under Plantation Slavery in the United States," More than Chattel. Indiana University Press, 1996, 45.
  32. ^ White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n't I a Woman, New York City, 1999, 76.
  33. ^ White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n't I a Woman, New York City, 1999, 70.
  34. ^ "The Realities of Enslaved Female Africans in America". Academic.udayton.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  35. ^ Glymph, Thavolia (Summer 2013). "Du Bois's Black Reconstruction and Slave Women's War for Freedom". South Atlantic Quarterly. 112 (3): 489. doi:10.1215/00382876-2146431.

Further reading

  • Ar'n't I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South, Deborah Gray White.
  • Being Good: Women's Moral Values in Early America, Martha Saxton.
  • Born in Bondage, Marie Jenkins.
  • Life in Black and White, Brenda Stevenson.
  • Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England, Catherine Adams and Elizabeth H. Pleck.
  • Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830–80, Marli F. Weiner.
  • Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake & Lowcountry, Philip D. Morgan.
  • Working Toward Freedom, Larry E. Hudson, Jr.
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