|Part of a series on|
|Women in society|
|Part of a series on|
The institution of slavery in North America existed from the earliest years of the colonial history of the United States 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 (women of color raped by White men) 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." 27 Living both female and black identities, enslaved African women faced both racism and sexism.:
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.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. 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. 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 importance to women in particular and the community as a whole." 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, 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.
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.
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."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. 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."
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.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."
Enslaved women were given to white women as gifts from their husbands, and as wedding and Christmas gifts. [ citation needed ]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." 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.
Regardless of location, 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." [ citation needed ]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." 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.
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."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." 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.
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.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 Crown issued certificates of manumission to more than 914 women as reward for serving with Loyalist forces. But many women who had won their freedom lost it again "through violence and trickery and the venality of men entrusted with their care." 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. The Crown did keep promises to manumissioned 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."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.
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." 15:
The mother-daughter relationship was often the most enduring and as such cherished within the African-American complex of relations.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." 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. African-American Women Work Songs are historical snapshots of lived experience and survival. 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'."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.'"
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.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."
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."
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."
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. [ page needed ]
Young girls generally started working well before boys, with many working before age seven. 76 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.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. 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. :
Many female slaves were the object of severe sexual exploitation; often bearing the children of their white masters, master's sons, or overseers. Slaves 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.Black females, some of them children, were forced into sexual relationships for their white owners' 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, 3rd 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 three-quarters white 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. Although Harriet Jacobs managed to escape to the North with her children, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 still put their livelihood at risk due to Dr. Norcom's family continuing to pursue her.
Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865 due to the ratification of the 13th Amendment. The decree offered enslaved men a path to freedom through military service. It wasn't until the Act of 1861 that enslaved women were allowed their freedom as they were no longer declared property of the Confederates in the south.In 1868, the 14th Amendment extended citizenship rights to African Americans.
Although emancipation freed black women from slavery, it also heightened the inequality between black women and black men. No longer servants to slave owners, black women were contractual servants to their husbands due to the patriarchal principles governing the role of women in marriage.
Slavery in the colonial history of the United States, from 1526 to 1776, developed from complex factors, and researchers have proposed several theories to explain the development of the institution of slavery and of the slave trade. Slavery strongly correlated with the European colonies' demand for labor, especially for the labor-intensive plantation economies of the sugar colonies in the Caribbean and South America, operated by Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and the Dutch Republic.
Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel slavery, comprising the enslavement primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America from its founding in 1776 until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Slavery was established throughout European colonization in the Americas. From early colonial days, it was practiced in Britain's colonies, including the Thirteen Colonies which formed the United States. Under the law, an enslaved person was treated as property and could be bought, sold, or given away. Slavery lasted in about half of U.S. states until 1865. As an economic system, slavery was largely replaced by sharecropping and convict leasing.
In the context of the history of slavery in the Americas, free people of color were people of mixed African, European, and sometimes Native American descent who were not enslaved. They were a distinct group of free people of color in the French colonies, including Louisiana and in settlements on Caribbean islands, such as Saint-Domingue (Haiti), St. Lucia, Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. In these territories and major cities, particularly New Orleans, and those cities held by the Spanish, a substantial third class of primarily mixed-race, free people developed. These colonial societies classified mixed-race people in a variety of ways, generally related to visible features and to the proportion of African ancestry. Racial classifications were numerous in Latin America.
In the British colonies in North America and in the United States before the abolition of slavery in 1865, free Negro or free Black described the legal status of African Americans who were not enslaved. The term was applied both to formerly enslaved people (freedmen) and to those who had been born free.
Partus sequitur ventrem was a legal doctrine passed in colonial Virginia in 1662 and other English crown colonies in the Americas which defined the legal status of children born there; the doctrine mandated that all children would inherit the legal status of their mothers. As such, children of enslaved women would be born into slavery. The legal doctrine of partus sequitur ventrem was derived from Roman civil law, specifically the portions concerning slavery and personal property (chattels).
Slavery in New Jersey began in the early 17th century, when Dutch colonists trafficked African slaves for labor to develop their colony of New Netherland. After England took control of the colony in 1664, its colonists continued the importation of slaves from Africa. They also imported "seasoned" slaves from their colonies in the West Indies and enslaved Native Americans from the Carolinas.
Women in the American Revolution played various roles depending on their social status and their political views.
Slavery in Brazil began long before the first Portuguese settlement was established in 1516, with members of one tribe enslaving captured members of another. Later, colonists were heavily dependent on indigenous labor during the initial phases of settlement to maintain the subsistence economy, and natives were often captured by expeditions called bandeiras. The importation of African slaves began midway through the 16th century, but the enslavement of indigenous peoples continued well into the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South is a book written by American historian John W. Blassingame. Published in 1972, it is one of the first historical studies of slavery in the United States to be presented from the perspective of the enslaved. The Slave Community contradicted those historians who had interpreted history to suggest that African-American slaves were docile and submissive "Sambos" who enjoyed the benefits of a paternalistic master–slave relationship on southern plantations. Using psychology, Blassingame analyzes fugitive slave narratives published in the 19th century to conclude that an independent culture developed among the enslaved and that there were a variety of personality types exhibited by slaves.
The breeding of enslaved people in the United States was the practice in slave states of the United States of slave owners to systematically force the reproduction of enslaved people to increase their profits. It included coerced sexual relations between enslaved men and women or girls, forced pregnancies of enslaved people, and favoring women or young girls who could produce a relatively large number of children. The objective was to increase the number of slaves without incurring the cost of purchase, and to fill labor shortages caused by the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.
Slavery in Maryland lasted over 200 years, from its beginnings in 1642 when the first Africans were brought as slaves to St. Mary's City, to its end after the Civil War. While Maryland developed similarly to neighboring Virginia, slavery declined here as an institution earlier, and it had the largest free black population by 1860 of any state. The early settlements and population centers of the province tended to cluster around the rivers and other waterways that empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland planters cultivated tobacco as the chief commodity crop, as the market was strong in Europe. Tobacco was labor-intensive in both cultivation and processing, and planters struggled to manage workers as tobacco prices declined in the late 17th century, even as farms became larger and more efficient. At first, indentured servants from England supplied much of the necessary labor but, as their economy improved at home, fewer made passage to the colonies. Maryland colonists turned to importing indentured and enslaved Africans to satisfy the labor demand.
Slavery in Virginia began with the capture and enslavement of Native Americans during the early days of the English Colony of Virginia and through the late eighteenth century. They primarily worked in tobacco fields. Africans were first brought to colonial Virginia in 1619, when 20 Africans from present-day Angola arrived in Virginia aboard the ship The White Lion.
Freedom suits were lawsuits in the Thirteen Colonies and the United States filed by enslaved people against slaveholders to assert claims to freedom, often based on descent from a free maternal ancestor, or time held as a resident in a free state or territory.
The treatment of enslaved people in the United States varied by time and place, but was generally brutal, especially on plantations. Whipping and rape were routine, but usually not in front of White outsiders, or even the plantation owner's family. An enslaved person could not be a witness against a White; enslaved people were sometimes required to whip other enslaved people, even family members. There were also businesses to which a slave owner could turn over the whipping. Families were often split up by the sale of one or more members, usually never to see or hear of each other again. There were some relatively enlightened slave owners—Nat Turner said his master was kind—but not on large plantations. Good treatment could vanish upon the death of an owner. As put by William T. Allan, a slaveowner's abolitionist son who could not safely return to Alabama, "cruelty was the rule, and kindness the exception".
Slavery in Cuba was a portion of the larger Atlantic Slave Trade that primarily supported Spanish plantation owners engaged in the sugarcane trade. It was practiced on the island of Cuba from the 16th century until it was abolished by Spanish royal decree on October 7, 1886.
Following Robert Cavelier de La Salle establishing the French claim to the territory and the introduction of the name Louisiana, the first settlements in the southernmost portion of Louisiana were developed at present-day Biloxi (1699), Mobile (1702), Natchitoches (1714), and New Orleans (1718). Slavery was then established by European colonists.
Africans were enslaved by Native Americans from the colonial period until the United States' Civil War. The interactions between Native American and Africans in the antebellum United States is complex. Maintaining institutions of slavery for profit relied largely on Africans enslaved by white American settlers and Native Americans both before and after the United States gained independence via the American Revolutionary War.
Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers is an American historian. She is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South. She is an expert in African-American history, the history of American slavery, and women’s and gender history.
Jane from Bridge Town,, was an urban slave in Barbados under the ownership of John Wright. Jane's life illustrates a bigger picture regarding slavery and violence in the early eighteenth century. Jane was captured in West Africa and brought over through the Middle Passage to Barbados. She was described by her markings in her runaway ad which made Jane’s body seem vulnerable.
Slavery was legally practiced in the Province of North Carolina and the state of North Carolina until January 1, 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Prior to statehood, there were 41,000 enslaved African-Americans in the Province of North Carolina in 1767. By 1860, the number of slaves in the state of North Carolina was 331,059, about one third of the total population of the state. In 1860, there were nineteen counties in North Carolina where the number of slaves was larger than the free white population. During the antebellum period the state of North Carolina passed several laws to protect the rights of slave owners while disenfranchising the rights of slaves. There was a constant fear amongst white slave owners in North Carolina of slave revolts from the time of the American Revolution. Despite their circumstances, some North Carolina slaves and freed slaves distinguished themselves as artisans, soldiers during the Revolution, religious leaders, and writers.
While emancipation was equally meaningful to black women and black men, the moment of winning freedom actually brought to the fore longstanding conflicts between black women and men.<