AR'N'T I A WOMAN? by Deborah Gray White


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Female Slaves in the Plantation SouthThere are many books in print on the subject of slavery in the US and a handful On the history of black women in America. But no other author has focused his or her attention exclusively on the Place where these two subjects intersect. White has in this slim (under 200 pages), scholarly, yet highly readable work. She unearths rare source material to illuminate the condition of ""the most vulnerable group of antebellum Americans""--those who were not only women in a male-dominated society and black in a white society, but also slaves in a free society. Setting the tone with and drawing her title from a quote from former slave Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech to the Women's Rights convention in Akron (""Look at me! Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns. . .I could work as much and eat as much as a man and bear de lash as well. . .I have borne thirteen children and seen em mos' all sold off into slavery. . .and ar'n't I a woman?""), White proceeds to answer Truth's question, as well as others: What are the myths shrouding female slavery? Was slavery different for men and women? What were the predictable stages of a female slave's life? Whom did she turn to in times of need? What was her place in the family? What long-lasting effects has slavery had on black women? White's aim was to ""enrich our knowledge of antebellum black culture and to serve as a chapter in the yet unwritten history of the American black woman."" She succeeds mightily. This small but important book should be read by everyone interested in the subjects of freedom and equality. Which means most of us.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1985
Publisher: Norton