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Lessons Learned From The Book “The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” About The Sexual Abuse Slaves Experienced

Written by Rewindingblack

Abolitionist Harriet Ann Jacobs published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent. The book chronicles the hardships and sexual abuse she experienced as a woman growing up in slavery. Jacobs fled slavery in 1835 by hiding in a crawlspace in her grandmother’s attic for seven years before traveling to Philadelphia by boat, and eventually to New York.

  • The sexual abuse of slaves was partially rooted in a patriarchal Southern culture which treated all women, black and white, as property or chattel.
  • The rape of slaves was also motivated by the wish to increase the slave population, particularly after the 1808 federal ban on the importation of slaves, and in light of competition in cotton production from western states.
  • Beginning in 1662, Southern colonies and states adopted into law the principle of partus sequitur ventrem, by which children of slave women took the status of their mothers, regardless of the father’s identity.
  • Slave breeding refers to a set of coercive policies aimed at increasing the population of slaves, including coerced sexual relations between male and female slaves.
  • Some female slaves called “fancy maids” were sold at auction into concubinage or prostitution, which was termed the “fancy trade”.
  • Slave breeding refers to a set of coercive policies aimed at increasing the population of slaves, including coerced sexual relations between male and female slaves, promoting pregnancies of slaves, sexual relations between master and slave with the aim of producing slave children, and favoring female slaves who produced a relatively large number of children.
  • By the nineteenth century, popular writing in the South characterized female slaves as lustful and promiscuous “Jezebels” who shamelessly tempted white owners into sexual relations.
  • Many female slaves, called “fancy maids”, were sold at auction into concubinage or prostitution, which was termed the “fancy trade. “
  • By 1860, just over 10% of the slave population was mulatto.

Source: Boundless. “Women and Slavery.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 14 Nov. 2014. Retrieved 13 Apr. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/u-s-history/textbooks/boundless-u-s-history-textbook/slavery-and-reform-1820-1840-16/slavery-in-the-u-s-122/women-and-slavery-657-9221/

 

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