African Women Slavery What Was Life Like Thesis

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Sources: 7
  • Subject: Family and Marriage
  • Type: Thesis
  • Paper: #56352419

Excerpt from Thesis :

African Women Slavery

What was life like for African female slaves?

When most people hear the word slavery they will often associate it with the harsh living conditions and the demoralizing atmosphere they were going through. While this is true, the reality is that many slaves endured even more suffering. For women, this became worse in comparison with men. Part of the reason for this, is because they were considered to be inferior to men.

This is troubling because, it meant that they would be exposed to a wide variety of abuses at the hands of their slave masters and other slaves. To fully understand what took place, we will look at the underlying levels of privation that were occurring. Once this happens, it will offer specific insights about the overall amounts of difficulties that they had to deal with.

The Typical Life for a Slave Woman

In America prior to the end of the Civil War, there was a division between the whites and blacks within society. As, the whites were considered to be the dominant ruling elite, that controlled many African-Americans (who were considered to be their personal property). This meant that they had the power to do whatever they wanted. To include: buying / selling these individuals and forcing them to do engage activities at the commands of the slave master. In the American South, this institution became so embedded as a part of the culture. That there were various laws enacted to ensure that the overall power structure remains in place. Most notably there were forbidden from: going outside after dark, gathering in groups of three or more people, leaving the owner's property without a written pass, owning weapons and learning to read / write.

This is important, because it is illustrating how slaves had various restrictions placed on them that made their overall quality of life very difficult. For women, these factors meant that they endured even more hardships than men. This is because in 19th century society, women were considered to be inferior to men. As a result, they were subjected to even more privation than their male counterparts to include: the possibility of being separated from their families, rape and violent punishments. These different elements are important, because they are highlighting the overall amounts of abuses that African-American women slaves endured at the hands of males.

The Possibility of Being Separated from their Families

Whenever an African-American woman became pregnant, the slave master determined what he would do with the child. This is because this person, was viewed this in similar light to one of the farm animals. In the majority of cases, these women were allowed to keep their children for several years after having the child. As, youngsters were permitted to remain with their natural family to: help establish some foundation in their upbringing. Then when they reached the age of five or six years old, they were sent to work in different areas of the plantation. This was designed to create an underpinning of discipline and focus in these individuals by: helping them to become use to working long hours. Once they became stronger and their bodies began to develop (usually between ten and twelve years old). They were sold to other families and sent to work for them. At which point, they were no longer allowed to have any contact with their biological family.

This is important, because it is showing how African-American women were forced to endure the hardships of motherhood during slavery. Where, they would bear and raise their children up to a certain age. Then, when the kids were strong enough to become useful, is the point that they were sold to other families and sent to live with them. Once they were no longer allowed to have any contact with them, this meant that the woman endured: psychological and emotional distress by having her own children taken from her.

African-American Women Slaves were Subject to Rape

A second abuse that African-American slaves were forced to endure is the possibility of rape. This occurred in two different forms at: the hands of their slave masters and with other slaves. When a woman was raped by her slave master, she could be exposed to this repeatedly by: one single person or many different individuals. The most notable include: the plantation owner, the slave master, their sons or any of the whites who worked for them.

At the same time, they were also subject to endure the possibility of being raped by other slaves. In this case, many of slave owners would have a particular woman selected for breeding purposes. This meant that she was forced to have sexual relations with other slaves on the plantation based on favorable genetic traits. The reason why, is because their slave masters wanted to have a particular individual that exhibited certain physical attributes that they thought would be advantageous to them (i.e. physical strength). As a result, they forced the women to go through this many different times during the course of her life.

These different elements are important, because they are showing how African-American female slaves were seen as nothing more than sexual objects. This can be based on: the desires of the white males on the plantation or the ability to breed her with other slaves. As a result, this created a sense of insecurity about her body and control of her own life. Where, she no longer had any way of determining what was best for herself or her physical well-being. Once this occurred, it meant that she would be forced to endure various forms of psychological and physical brutality. The inability to change or escape these kinds of situations made their predicament even worse, which would have a direct impact on her well-being.

Violent Punishments

To help maintain the social order in society the slave masters would often use violence against them on a regular basis. Part of the reason for this, is because they believed that African-Americans were not capable of developing family ties or having any kind of normal human relationships. At the same time, these individuals felt that they could not be reasoned with and must be forced to do whatever was told to them through violent means. This meant that many African-American women slaves were subject, to tremendous amounts of brutality during the day such as: beatings, the amputation of limbs and the possibility of death. These different techniques were used to ensure that obedience was maintained at all times. Anyone who was out line was subject to severe punishment for not following the different rules. Then, once night came, they were forbidden from having any kind of normal relations with other slaves or their families. Instead, women were subject to the possibility of sexual violence directed against them by: any one of the whites that were a part of the plantation. While this was occurring, the women were also facing the possibility of violence directed against them from male slaves. This is because, they felt: that the women were beneath them and someone may want to extract their revenge on them.

These different factors are important, because they are showing how slave women were often seen in a less favorable light than men. As, they were subject to the same kinds of brutal punishment for: not following the various provisions of the plantation. Yet, they also endured hardships beyond that of their slave masters with: many of the male slaves equally abusing them in their own way. As a result, women were not able to form some kind of common bond with others and they were unable to have any kind of social relations. These factors meant that many would suffer from some form of psychological abuse by: not having any kind…

Cite This Thesis:

"African Women Slavery What Was Life Like" (2011, September 04) Retrieved January 21, 2017, from

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"African Women Slavery What Was Life Like", 04 September 2011, Accessed.21 January. 2017,