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Tutor: Lydia Plath

In this session we will explore the lives of black women and their experiences of sexual violence in the United States using an intersectional approach. We will discuss the theoretical and methodological challenges faced by historians seeking to understand the history of sexual violence endured by black women, and we will explore the extent to which enslaved black women were able to bodily resist such oppressions in the antebellum US South.

Seminar questions:

1. Why is an “intersectional” approach necessary to understand the oppression and lived experiences of black women?

2. What are the methodological challenges faced by historians writing about black women and their experiences of sexual violence?

3. To what extent were enslaved women able to use their bodies to resist their oppression?

Core Literature:

The Combahee River Collective Statement (1977)

Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color”, Stanford Law Review 43: 6 (1991), pp. 1241-1299.

Emily West, “Reflections on the History and Historians of the black woman’s role in the community of slaves: enslaved women and intimate partner sexual violence”, American Nineteenth Century History, 19:1 (2018): pp. 1-21.

And (at least) one of:

Stephanie M. H. Camp, “The Pleasures of Resistance: Enslaved Women and Body Politics in the Plantation South, 1830-1861”, Journal of Southern History: 68:3 (2002), pp. 533-572.

Liese M. Perrin, “Resisting Reproduction: Reconsidering Slave Contraception in the Old South”, Journal of American Studies 35:2 (2001), pp. 255-274.

Emily West and R. J. Knight. “Mothers’ Milk: Slavery, Wet-Nursing, and Black and White Women in the Antebellum South.” Journal of Southern History 83:1 (2017), pp. 37-68.

Further readings:

Brown, Elsa Barkley, “‘What Has Happened Here’: The Politics of Difference in Women’s History and Feminist Politics,” Feminist Studies 18:2 (1992), pp. 295–312.

Camp, Stephanie M. H., Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

Davis, Angela, “Reflections on the Black Woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves.” The Black Scholar 3:4 (1971), pp. 2–15.

Feimster, Crystal, Southern Horrors: women and the politics of rape and lynching (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).

Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988).

Freedman, Estelle B., Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013).

Glymph, Thavolia, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Hartman, Saidiya V., Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery and Self-making in Nineteenth Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

hooks, bell, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (London: Pluto, 1982).

Hull Gloria T., Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith (eds), All the women are White, all the Blacks are men, but some of us are brave: Black women's studies (Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1982).

Jacobs, Harriet, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. (Boston: 1861).

Jennings, Thelma, “‘Us Colored Women Had to Go Through a-Plenty’: Sexual Exploitation of African- American Slave Women,” Journal of Women’s History 1:3 (1990), pp. 45–74.

Livesey, Andrea, “Conceived in Violence: Enslaved Mothers and Children Born of Rape in Nineteenth-Century Louisiana,” Slavery and Abolition 38:2 (2017), pp. 373–391.

McGuire, Danielle L., At the dark end of the street: black women, rape, and resistance—a new history of the civil rights movement from Rosa Parks to the rise of black power (New York: Vintage Books, 2011).

Morgan, Jennifer, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

Painter, Nell Irvin, Southern History Across the Color Line (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

Rosen, Hannah, Terror in the heart of freedom: Citizenship, sexual violence, and the meaning of race in the postemancipation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Sommerville, Diane Miller, Rape and Race in the Nineteenth-Century South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta (ed.), How we get free: black feminism and the Combahee River Collective (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017).

West, Emily, Chains of Love: Slave Couples in Antebellum South Carolina (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014).

White, Deborah Gray, Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985).