Discovering the Women in Slavery: Emancipating Perspectives on the American Past / Edition 1

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Discovering the Women in Slavery is a collection of fourteen original essays on women's experiences of slavery in America, researched and written from gender- and women-focused perspectives. The essays discuss not only slave women, but also plantation and slaveholding mistresses and free women of color, in contexts ranging from the colonial era to the Civil War South. Intended for wide readership, this book is especially designed to bring attention to the new questions and findings about American slavery that are engendered by today's exploration of the experience and roles of the women generally left invisible, stereotyped, or both, by conventional American slavery history.

As Patricia Morton notes in her historiographical introduction, Discovering the Women in Slavery continues the advances made, especially over the last decade, in understanding how women experienced slavery and shaped slavery history. In addition, the collection illuminates some emancipating new perspectives and methodologies. Throughout, the contributors pay close attention—over time and place—to variations, differences, and diversity regarding issues of gender and sex, race and ethnicity, and class. They draw on such qualitative sources as letters, novels, oral histories, court records, and local histories as well as quantitative sources like census data and parish records.

The collection is structured in two sections that demonstrate, through complementary approaches, how the diverse and intersecting worlds of women and slavery can be discovered. The first section comprises pioneering individual case studies. One essay, for example, uses racist sources to shed light on a former slave woman's major contribution to the South's internal rebellions against the Confederacy. Another discusses a mistress who, by her own initiative, first became a slave owner while her husband was at war. In the second section, which presents group studies, one finds equally pathbreaking explorations of such topics as the religious experience and culture of early slave women and also the clothing and self-adornment of enslaved and free African American women as material culture artifacts and evidence. All of the essays in the collection point to additional sources for study and research.

Reconstructing the histories of women who struggled to shape their own lives and who, in the context of slavery and its legacies, often struggled tragically against each other, this collection richly contributes to the humanization of America's slavery past.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Pathbreaking and exciting. The contributions in this ambitious and important collection fit together into a useful, cohesive anthology about women’s history, slavery, and the South."—Catherine Clinton

"Morton's book succeeds at introducing readers to a wide variety of the sources available for the study of southern, and especially enslaved, women's fives, and it conveys a sense of the range of southern women's experiences during the antebellum era."—Labor History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820317571
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Morton is a professor of history at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. She is the author of Disfigured Images: The Historical Assault on Afro-American Women.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 1
Misshapen Identity: Memory, Folklore, and the Legend of Rachel Knight 29
In Remembrance of Mira: Reflections on the Death of a Slave Woman 47
The Civil War's Empowerment of an Appalachian Woman: The 1864 Slave Purchases of Mary Bell 61
The Mistress and Her Maids: White and Black Women in a Louisiana Household, 1858-1868 82
The Divided Mind of Antislavery Feminism: Lydia Maria Child and the Construction of African American Womanhood 107
Prudence Crandall, Amistad, and Other Episodes in the Dismissal of Connecticut Slave Women from American History 129
"The Fortunes of Women in America": Spanish New Orleans's Free Women of African Descent and Their Relations with Slave Women 153
"If I Can't Have My Rights, I Can Have My Pleasures, And If They Won't Give Me Wages, I Can Take Them": Gender and Slave Labor in Antebellum New Orleans 179
Religion, Gender, and Identity: Black Methodist Women in a Slave Society, 1770-1810 202
The Struggle to Achieve Individual Expression through Clothing and Adornment: African American Women under and after Slavery 227
"At Noon, Oh How I Ran": Breastfeeding and Weaning on Plantation and Farm in Antebellum Virginia and Alabama 241
Behind the Mask: Ex-slave Women and Interracial Sexual Relations 260
Mistresses, Morality, and the Dilemmas of Slaveholding: The Ideology and Behavior of Elite Antebellum Women 278
The Diversity of Old South White Women: The Peculiar Worlds of German American Women 299
Selected Bibliography 313
Contributors 319
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