Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Slavery, Sexuality and Violence in the American South (part 1)

Slavery, Sexuality and Violence: Sexuality and Daily Life for the Enslaved


How common was sexual violence in the colonial and Antebellum south? What impact did it have on the lives of the enslaved?

Situate inter-racial sexual encounters within the larger history of enslaved sexuality; were these the only sorts of sexual encounters experienced by the enslaved?



Camp, Stephanie, ‘The Pleasures of Resistance: Enslaved Women and Body Politics in the Plantation South, 1830-1861’, Journal of Southern History, LXVIII (August 2002), No 3, pp. 533-572.

Hartman, Saidiya, 'Seduction and the Ruses of Power', Callaloo 19:2 (1996).

Jacobs, Harriet, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Written by Herself (1861), esp. chapters 5-7.

Also Read Selectively from:

Burnham, Margaret, ‘An Impossible Marriage: Slave Law and Family Law’, Law and Inequality, vol. 5 (1987).

Clinton, Catherine, ‘‘Southern Dishonour’: Flesh, Blood, Race and Bondage’, In Joy and In Sorrow: Women, Family and Marriage in the Victorian South, 1830-1900, ed. Carol Bleser, Oxford University Press (1991).

D’Emilio, John and Estelle Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (New York, 1997), chapter 5: ‘Race and Sexuality’.

Dusinberre, William, Them Dark Days. Slavery in the American Rice Swamps (Oxford, 1996) chapter 4: ‘Unhappy Families’.

Foster, Thomas, 'The Sexual Abuse of Black Men under American Slavery', Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 20:3 (2011).

Gray White, Deborah, Ar’n’t I A Woman?, chapters 1, 2 and 5.

Griffin, Rebecca, ‘Goin’ Back Over There to See That Girl’: Competing Social Spaces in the Lives of the Enslaved In Antebellum North Carolina’, Slavery and Abolition, vol. 25:1 (2004).

Gutman, Herbert, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925, Pantheon (New York, 1976).

Gutman, Herbert, and Richard Sutch, ‘Victorians All? The Sexual Mores and Conduct of Slaves and their Masters’, in Reckoning With Slavery: A Critical Study of the Quantitative History of American Negro Slavery, eds. Paul David, Herbert Gutman, Richard Sutch, Peter Temin and Gavin Wright, Oxford University Press (New York, 1976).

Hartman, Saidiya, Scenes of Subjugation: Terror, Slavery and Self-Making in Nineteenth-century America (New York, 1997).

Jennings, Thelma, ‘Us Colored Women Had to Go Through a Plenty’, Journal of Women’s History, vol. 1 (1990).

Jones, Jacqueline, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family, from Slavery to the Present (1985), chapter 1.

Mintz, Steven, and Susan Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life (1988), Chapter 4.

Peiss, Kathy, ed., Major Problems in the History of American Sexuality, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, 2002), chapter 5: ‘Sexuality, Race and Violence in Slavery and Freedom’.

Stevenson, Brenda, ‘Distress and Discord in Virginia Slave Families, 1830-1860’, In Joy and In Sorrow: Women, Family and Marriage in the Victorian South, 1830-1900, ed. Carol Bleser, Oxford University Press (1991).

Stevenson, Brenda, Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South, Oxford University Press (New York, 1996).

West, Emily, ‘Surviving Separation: Cross-Plantation Marriages and the Slave Trade in Antebellum South Carolina’, Journal of Family History (1999), 212-231.

Yarbrough, Fay, 'Power, Perception, and Interracial Sex: Former Slaves Recall a Multiracial South’, Journal of Southern History 71:3 (2005).