Discovering the Women in Slavery

Emancipating Perspectives on the American Past

Edited by Patricia Morton

Title Details

Pages: 336

Illustrations: 4 photos

Trim size: 6.120in x 9.250in



Pub Date: 01/01/1996

ISBN: 9-780-8203-1757-1

List Price: $30.95

Discovering the Women in Slavery

Emancipating Perspectives on the American Past

Edited by Patricia Morton

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  • Description
  • Reviews

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.

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

About the Author/Editor

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.