African Americans in the United States has experienced many hardships since they were brought to America, as slaves. Slavery was a disgusting institution that dehumanized African American’s. Female slave oppression differed from that of men, It wasn’t less severe, but it was different. Sexual relationships between masters and female slaves were common during the eighteenth century. This paper seeks to examine how female slaves abused physically, sexually, and during slavery.
Slave narratives have been centered around a males point of view, like the autobiography of Frederick Douglass. However, female slave narratives provide understanding into slave experience from a female perspective, like motherhood, sexual oppression, and abuse. They’re few slave narratives about women, but the few that are written shed light on the emotional anguish and suffering that many women had adored. The narrative by Harriet Jacobs, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” is an important example. She characterizes how it felt to be a slave girl transitioning womanhood while most male slave narratives characterize the physical imagery. The “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,“ shows the different role that female slaves had and the struggles that were caused by having to cope with sexual abuse.
During the eighteenth century white society viewed African American woman as lustful and hyper-sexual, while society viewed white woman as pure. White men or the ‘masters” often felt it was their right to have sexual relation with the slave woman. The slave masters often would pursue young single slaves girls However, they did on occasional rape married slave women. Harriet Jacobs illustrates this in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. She describes Linda Bent the main character as being sexually harassed by her master Dr. Flint pretty much daily. He would write her notes that were sexually explicit about what he wanted to do with her, approach her and make her feel uncomfortable being around him. She states “My master met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him”. Dr. Flint took pleasure in having complete power and forcing his will on his slaves. Slave masters often would found enjoyment in abusing their female slaves. They liked to hear them scream and cry. Using force gave them a sense of control and power. This exemplifies that sense of control master had during that time period. Female slaves typically worked as house slaves and would most likely suffer most of the sexual abuse because they were around their masters more. A female slave couldn’t do anything to stop their master, they were forced to comply with sexual advances. If a slave woman did not comply, they were subject to physical beatings to them or their family.
Female slaves had close contact with the wife and would be punished by them for no reason due to the wife’s jealousy. Jacobs narrated that Linda Bent had to deal with the sexual abuse by her master and she had to deal with the jealousy of his wife. Linda viewed Ms. Flint as cruel and revengeful and often takes advantage of her authority. For example, “she listens to violent outbreaks of jealous passion, and cannot help understanding what is the cause.” Harriet Jacobs does a good job at depicting the master and slave relationship. By showing how the master had all the power and how dehumanizing and oppressed the slaves were.
The body of a slave female was not their own, but the property of their master for control and pleasure. In Life of a Slave Girl Jacobs describes how these women were represented. These women were viewed as sexual figures or used for breeding children. Master would have sex with a woman get her pregnant and sell her children to another plantation because it infuriated the master’s wife. This cycle of abuse happened throughout slavery and as, a result women would try to make themselves look less attractive to avoid being raped and getting pregnant. The slave husband had no control over the sexual relationship between his master and his slave wife. The female slave had to comply with the master sexual needs even though her husband hated it. Many women were too afraid to say no to their master. In interview 1937 W.L Bost stated “Plenty of the colored women have children by the white men. She knows better than not do what he said.” Many of the children father by the master became slaves as they are children of their mothers. The slave husband would treat the child as his own. Most often the enslaved woman never told the child their master is their father. but, they always whispered about who the father was. Jacobs spoke about this in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl “My master was, to my knowledge, the father of eleven slaves. But did the mothers dare to tell who was the father of their children? Did the other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers among themselves? No, indeed! They knew too well the terrible consequences…..” Even though their children were a constant reminder of the sexual abuse, they love their children very much.
Harriet Jacobs wrote, “Slavery is terrible for men, but far more terrible for women.” Although both male and female slaves had to do hard labor, male slaves never had to deal with being sexual abuse and raped. Female slaves had to endure the same punishments as a male slave, but they also dealt with being raped and abused on daily. These women had to watch as their children were being sold. which destroyed female slaves as their children were most important. The master used female slaves as a sexual object of, this led to problems with the master’s wife. As a result, female slaves had to deal with jealousy and anger and were also punished by the wife. The sexual abuse that women have to deal with takes the physical and mental toll on you. One can say slaves still has its effects on African Americans to this day. The hardships and issue have affected African American women the most.