Slavery4 Essay

This essay has a total of 2542 words and 11 pages.


A former slave during the antebellum era, Lewis Clarke, said, “How would you like to see
your sisters, and your wives, and your daughter, completely, teetotally, and altogether,
in the power of the master. – You can picture to yourselves a little, how you would feel;
but oh, if I could tell you!” Blacks during the time of slavery saw the many different
experiences women had to go through, from “breeding” slaves to working in the fields
(Woman and the Family in a slave society, Catherine Clinton, pg.13).

Many of times, masters would send for the younger female slaves around the ages of 13 and
older. At this time he would then rape her. This was not uncommon to happen. Madison
Jefferson, another emancipated slave, said, ”Women who refused to submit to the brutal
desires of their owners, are repeatedly whipt to subdue their virtuous repugnance, and in
most instances this hellish practice is but too successful - when it fails, the women are
frequently sold off to the south. Living under a social order which deprived them of
virtually all means of gaining personal preferment except the granting of sexual favors,
there is little doubt that many slave women submitted willingly to the advances of their
masters, some of the family, or, overseers, hoping to receive favors in return. Legally
there was no such thing as the rape of a slave woman by a white man (Clinton, pg.13).

Sexual abuse among young slave girls, especially those, who had worked within the big
house, was a crime of which many slaves complained. Records of the Freedman’s Bureau
indicate that white men were slow to break the habit if abusing black women.

“Slave breeding was not uncommon on the plantation. Slaves hated when masters’ attempt to
control mating by matching up couples. Some masters rented or

borrowed men for stud service, subjecting their female slaves to forced breeding or rape.
The male slaves that were used were sometimes referred to as “travelin’ niggers,”
“stockmen,” or “breedin’ niggers.” These were not the only ways masters attempted to
control reproduction of slaves. Slave women were expected to reproduce as frequently as

possible. If they fail to give birth they might be sold. Barren women were shunned by
the community and punished by their owners. All of these factors impaired slave sexuality
and crippled the stability of the traditional family (Clinton, pg. 14).

Evidence from both blacks and whites indicates that forced interracial sex was more common
than slave breeding was. Blacks were reluctant to discuss such matters, especially with
racial and sexual factors inhibiting responses. Former slave, Harry McMillan, said that
although most were church members, girls were more likely to succumb to sexual temptation
than were boys. McMillan also said, “I remember masters who kept one girl steady, others
who maintained sometimes two on different places, regardless of whether they were married
or unencumbered by white wives. …If they could get it on their own place it was easier,
but they would go wherever they could get it. It demonstrates that, as a rule, white
males in slave society were at no liberty to exploit slave women, despite family or
Christian obligations to the contrary (Clinton pg.14).”

White men and enslaved women did form long-term liaisons, which may not have been founded
on mutual feelings but often grew into relationships that demonstrated

fidelity and devotion. Records show that not all black female-white male liaisons were
maintained or even initiated by brute force.

Owner-slave liaisons not only caused havoc within the black family; they created violence
and resentment among members of white families as well. Lacking the power to prevent
sexual activities between male owners and slaves, white women on plantations

struggle to discourage sons, brothers, and conceal marital infidelities. The jealousy and
hatred many white women harbored for the slave women to whom their husbands were attached
were a legend within the Old South (Clinton, pg. 19).

White women uniformly scorned black women’s physical appearance. Complaining about the
“unattractiveness” of black women was an unconscious defense mechanism against the
“attraction” many white men acted upon within southern society. Travelers, observers,
court records, and slave narratives all testify to the hostility many white women felt
toward black concubines. They felt as if they were at the mercy of white men (Clinton pg.

Some of the plantation matrons would beg their husbands’ fathers for assistance, and
others might look to their own parents for comfort, but generally women were expected to
turn a blind eye. If a man abused his privilege by flaunting an affair, a wife might
demand that the slave be sold. If her husband refused, she could petition for divorce,
citing infidelity as legal grounds for dissolution (Clinton pg. 23).

These sexual liaisons caused major conflict between the black women and white women. It
stirred up conflict and resentment in the cabins and provoked equal disharmony among
members of the white family(Autobiography of a Female Slave, pg.12) .

The presence of a slave concubine and, secondarily, her bastard children promoted conflict
within the plantation household. Most of the white women lashed out at the helpless
victims - the slave women. Blacks confirm that mistresses attempted to enforce Christian
principles and to deal with morally with a very brutal dehumanizing system. Former slave
James Curry said, “I could relate many instance of extreme cruelty

practised upon plantations in our neighborhood, instances of woman laying heavy stripes
upon the back of woman, even under circumstances which should have removed every feeling
but that of sympathy from the heart of woman, and, which was sometimes attended with
effects most shocking.”

The problems of white women pale in comparison to those that plagued slave women on white
households and black women within southern society. In some cases the anguish and
frustration of white women compounded black women’s difficulties, resulting in physical
and emotional abuse of slave mothers and children. They both did share the fact that they
were both at the mercy of the male will.

The black female’s experiences in slavery differed from the males' and to ignore that
difference would be to misunderstand the nature of slavery. The bonds of a female slave
were two-fold, linking her both to an interracial community of women and setting her apart
as a female in a white, patriarchal society. Black women had an opportunity for a more
normal life than did black men because they were less desirable purchases. Because black
woman outnumbered the men, it was easier for women to form families.

Several factors though complicated a black woman’s search for a partner. The dispersed
patterns of ownership meant few black women lived in a quarter or with other blacks.
Initially, blacks and especially black women, were scattered singly or in a small groups
among those families who owned slaves. Over one-third of the families owned some slaves
or rented them. No family before 1744 paid taxes on more than six blacks over age
sixteen. Before 1744 only two or three families owned enough slaves to have both males
and females. Thus, black women had to search for mates on nearby farms.
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