Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Families across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787-1861 / Edition 1

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Overview

Laws and cultural norms militated against interracial sex in Virginia before the Civil War, and yet it was ubiquitous in cities, towns, and plantation communities throughout the state. In Notorious in the Neighborhood, Joshua Rothman examines the full spectrum of interracial sexual relationships under slavery—from Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the intertwined interracial families of Monticello and Charlottesville to commercial sex in Richmond, the routinized sexual exploitation of enslaved women, and adultery across the color line. He explores the complex considerations of legal and judicial authorities who handled cases involving illicit sex and describes how the customary toleration of sex across the color line both supported and undermined racism and slavery in the early national and antebellum South.

White Virginians allowed for an astonishing degree of flexibility and fluidity within a seemingly rigid system of race and interracial relations, Rothman argues, and the relationship between law and custom regarding racial intermixture was always shifting. As a consequence, even as whites never questioned their own racial supremacy, the meaning and significance of racial boundaries, racial hierarchy, and ultimately of race itself always stood on unstable ground—a reality that whites understood and about which they demonstrated increasing anxiety as the nation's sectional crisis intensified.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Shines with exacting research, nuanced readings of the evidence, wide-ranging arguments, and attention to multiple layers of meaning. (Martha Hodes, author of White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807854402
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Joshua D. Rothman is assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Interlude: Stories Told about Monticello 12
Ch. 1 Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, James Callender, and Sex across the Color Line under Slavery 14
Interlude: The Community of Mary Hemings 53
Ch. 2 Notorious in the Neighborhood: An Interracial Family in Early National and Antebellum Virginia 57
Interlude: The Funeral of David Isaacs 88
Ch. 3 The Church and the Brothel Are Only Separated by a Pane of Glass: Sex and Race on the Streets of Richmond 92
Interlude: The Context for Lawmaking 130
Ch. 4 The Strongest Passion That Can Possibly Aggitate the Human Mind: Sexual Violence, Slave Crime, Law, and the White Community 133
Interlude: The Fate of Lucy Bowman 164
Ch. 5 To Be Freed from Thate Curs and Let at Liberty: Interracial Adultery and Divorce 169
Interlude: The Mysteries of William Carlton 199
Ch. 6 Let There Be but Two Races among Us: Mixed Bloods in Early National and Antebellum Law and Society 204
Interlude: Toward a New Racial Order 235
Epilogue 239
Notes 245
Bibliography 307
Index 331
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