Throughout American history, women have faced great oppositions to get to where they are today. Some women had to withstand even greater adversities because they were born into a slave community. In the war of independence, people fought and died for their freedom, the rights of slaves as human beings were, nonetheless, overlooked. The treatment of slaves varied between the North and South as did the white slave owners’ behavior toward the men slaves and women slaves. The injustices that slave women dealt with affected their homes, families, motherhood, and personal life. They never felt true freedom in any area of their life.
Women in general had to fight to get their voice heard, but if you were African American women you were forced into slavery and did not have any say, even when it came to their personal life. Slavery was more intense in the south. Women slaves were forbidden the basic rights of any human being such as, living with their families, raising their children, education, marriage, and even the freedom to go move around.2 In the South, slave women did not obtain any wages for their work which was the fundamental difference between the way slavery was done in the North and South. The profits received in the South were substantially due to the huge cotton industry, but the women slave workers received no wages for their hard labor; instead, all the wealth went to their owners.2 One constant fear of a slave woman was being sold or having a loved one sold and taken away from them. Could you imagine living with that kind of fear? Always looking over your shoulder wondering if today is the last time you see your family. A young slave girl by the name of Ellen Craft had to experience this first hand. Ellen was constantly being mistaken as part of her owners family, because she was mostly white. Her father was white and her mother was his African American slave. The ruthless old lady to whom she was enslaved to, gave her away as wedding present because she was sick of people thinking they were of the same family.3 This resulted in a separation from her mother and close friends. In the South women were not only disregarded in the generalization of “true womanhood” but they were not considered in the category of “women” altogether.2 The South viewed slaves as “valuable commodities, objects of legal commerce.”2 Although slavery was still prominent in the North, there was still some kind of humanity in the way they treated their slave women.
Slave women took on the same tasks as men and toiled the ground alongside them from dawn to dusk. Despite the amount of work they put in they were still viewed as “partial hands” for the purposes of accounting and sale.2 This was not the only differentiation between the way men and women slaves were treated. Women, many times, were exploited because of their sex. An account of this injustice comes from several stories where a slave women’s skirt would be raised over her head during a whipping, creating a painful and traumatic event.2 Women were given hardly any time to recover after childbirth, and many times their owners would force them to have sexual encounter with them because their offspring would provide a great profit. Some women even went to the extremes of aborting their baby so they wouldn’t have to be enslaved to anyone. They refused to bring a child into the dark world of slavery and captivity. The slave system suggests: “that the master is the legal owner of the slave women’s sexuality and reproductive capacity along with her labor; that any child born of a slave women was also a slave, thus benefiting the master financially as well as sexually; and a slave women may gain some favor with the master if she abides to him”2 Harriet Jacobs was born a slave in North Carolina and from the age of twelve she was sexually harassed by an older white male.4 He told her she was his property and must do whatever he says. Harriet had nowhere to turn to for protection and no one was willing to help her. Many slaves suffered from similar circumstances and it was not just women but young girls as well.