Antebellum South: Sexual Abuse Against Enslaved Women on the Plantation

0 Posted by - February 12, 2020 - LATEST POSTS, SLAVERY

Sexual abuse of slaves was a common occurrence in the United States antebellum south. The rape of enslaved women was to increase the slave population and to satisfy the needs of white slave owners. Enslaved women were forced to submit to their master’s sexual advances; if a slave woman became pregnant, this would cause the master’s wife to become outraged. In some cases, the affair tore the master’s family apart, but most women remained with their husbands and made the slave woman’s life unbearable.

One white lady that lived near us at McBean slipped in a colored gal’s room and cut her baby’s head clean off ’cause it belonged to her husband. he beat her ’bout it and started to kill her, but she begged so I reckon he got to feelin’ sorry for her. But he kept goin’ with the colored gal and they had more chillun. — unnamed former slave, enslaved in Georgia, interviewed 1937

An enslaved woman who defended herself against a sexual attack by a White person was subject to cruel beatings. Liaisons between Whites and Blacks were illegal. Slave women, regardless of their age, were viewed as seducers of White men. Black slave women received the harshest punishment if discovered in an affair with a White male, and pregnancy became the evidence of the illegal affair. A “mulatto” baby was the sure indicator of the white master’s infidelity.

However, sexual abuse by white slave owners had a deeper meaning behind it. “Black female flesh was unprotected in the institution of slavery, and the raping of female slaves by slave masters was not only a means of stripping them of physical agency, but a tactic used in order to destroy the social fabric of the entire slave community.” (Putzi,5)

The involuntary impregnation of these women by their slave masters was a reminder of the power dynamic between black women and white men. The power of white slave masters to have sex with their slave women attacked black men indirectly because they were powerless. They could do nothing to stop the violence.

source:

“Raising the Stigma: Black Womanhood and the Marked Body in Pauline Hopkins’s Contending Forces” By Jennifer Putzi

16 Comments

  • Yvonne Atkinson March 12, 2019 - 3:33 pm Reply

    Rape is about power. When power is not the focus of the discussion we fall into the trap of once again sexualizing Black womanhood; making the rape of enslaved simplistic. Sexualizing rape also allows us to ignore/erase the rape of Black boys and men by both men and women.

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  • Sike Quan February 13, 2020 - 12:14 pm Reply

    “Enslaved women were forced to satisfy sexual advances” – I feel that the term “sexual advances” is misused here because there is an implicit insinuation that refusal is possible if only an “advance” is being made. By the same token, characterizing repeated rapes as “affairs” is also wrong. Again with implications of some kind of consent on the part of the female victim. No AFFAIR happened between raped women and their rapists. No sexual advances took place. Just sexual assaults. Get it right. You are inadvertently helping in the white-washing of this historical evil by misuse of the English language.

  • Sike Quan February 13, 2020 - 12:15 pm Reply

    “Enslaved women were forced to satisfy sexual advances” – I feel that the term “sexual advances” is misused here because there is an implicit insinuation that refusal is possible if only an “advance” is being made. By the same token, characterizing repeated rapes as “affairs” is also wrong. Again with implications of some kind of consent on the part of the female victim. No AFFAIR happened between raped women and their rapists. No sexual advances took place. Just sexual assaults. Get it right. You are inadvertently helping in the white-washing and softening of this historical evil by misuse of the English language.

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