Differences in the Experience with Slavery for Men and Women

*Facts based off of information in my personal notes from my HST 247 African American History class that I took at DePaul University in 2019.

Slavery in the United States was racist, there is simply no denying that fact; however, as if enslaving human beings based off the color of one’s skin was not inhumane and unjust enough, slave owners sought to invoke treacherous punishments on slaves based off their genders. Slavery was aimed to make the enslaved feel that blackness was a shameful quality, but the minds behind slavery were darker than just racism. The gendering of slavery intertwined with the blatant racism created an intersection filled with hate, pain, suffering, and pure ignorance of morality. Both women and men endured separate, yet also the same, hells in a world where their voices were silenced.

 Women faced certain challenges that men did not see as often because of the objectification that the women faced from the slave owners. The literature piece, Ar’n’t I a Woman?, addresses several problems that women faced, and most of these problems stemmed from socially constructed archetypes that were developed. One of these archetypes was that of “Jezebel” (White 29). This archetype was made so that black women would be viewed as promiscuous, intensely sexual beings. The origination of this image was produced when the whites first encountered black women in Africa (White 29). Not only did this stand as a negative label, the Jezebel archetype had direct influence on the African American women’s lives. Since society viewed black women as overly sexual beings, when women were raped by slave owners, the rape was excused (White 32). Black women were thought to have no purity, whereas white women were pure women who deserved complete respect. An escaped slave, Christopher Nichols, recalled that a master that he had would take women and throw them over a bench and rape that woman in front of everyone (White 33). The men would not show any mercy and overpower any woman that he wanted to. The men would whip the women and rape them in front of their mothers and fathers and if the women resisted, further punishment was had (White 35).

The sexual objectification of women was an experience that many women faced, and slave owners would use the sexuality of women in an advantageous way. Slave owners would rape women in order to increase the number of slaves on the plantation, because the children would take the status of the women. One instance in history was the case of Celia. Celia was a young girl who suffered from intense sexual abuse from her owner. Eventually Celia grew tired of the treatment she faced from her owner and killed him. This case was brought to court and the rape was recognized, but it was not found illegal because the court felt that Celia, as a black woman, had no purity to be taken away. Celia fit into the Jezebel archetype and the actions that were proceeded in court supported the archetype. Even though Jezebel was promiscuous and sexy, she was not worthy of the same life as a white woman. Jezebel may not have been whipped and put to field work, but she was living a horrid reality that was filled with rape, hate, oppression, and violence.

While some women were being shamed for sexuality, other women were having their sexuality taken away. It was the socially constructed archetype of the “Mammy” that did this (White 46). The Mammy archetype represented a loving and caring black woman that had no interest in any sexual activity. This woman cared heavily for the slave owners’ children but was still viewed as a slave. This Mammy was held to high expectations and was relied on to perform several tasks, in good time, regardless of any constraints. Mammy was the prized house-slave and was seen to be worthy and reliable (White 47). Susan Eppes, a slave owner, would converse with her Mammy every day and viewed her Mammy as a sort of children’s keeper (White 47). Mammy was thought to be very well respected, which in turn, made some believe that maybe slavery was not as bad as it seemed. No matter how much respect a slave owner could have for a slave, that person was still supporting the brutal system of slavery. Even though Mammy was this woman who could do it all, her value when compared to a white woman was nonexistent. Mammy was capable and did work efficiently, but Mammy was still not viewed to be as worthy as a white woman and was nonetheless property of the slave owners. The women who faced this label were made to think that the “respect” received from the owners was a good way to live and that they were lucky to be out of the field and away from the lashes of the whip.

While women were being sexualized by the slave owners, men were facing unimaginable punishments. Men felt that they were powerless because the whites would take sexual advantage of their wives, daughters, and mothers, but the men could not do anything to stop the terror (Black 100). In the African culture, a man is expected to care for his family, but under slavery this notion was nonexistent. Henry Bibb wrote a slave narrative and spoke on the several brutalities that he suffered. He, and other enslaved men, felt that a man had a right to his wife and a right to his children, but the slave owners stripped black men of those rights (Black 111). This narrative was completely honest, and he was up front with everything that he felt and experienced. He said that, “I must be a slave for life—suffer under the lash or die.” (Black 103). This was the reality for several slaves, especially those following the first-generation slaves. When a slave was born into slavery, the only life that was known was one of oppression, hate, and pain—there seemed to be no way out, except for death. Bibb suffered intense violence during his time at the Whitfield Plantation, especially when he had a failed attempt to escape. He recalled in his narrative that, “My clothing was ripped off and I was compelled to lie on the ground…four stakes were driven in the ground, to which my hands and feet were tied (Black 105).” He was then lashed from head to foot repeatedly, almost to death. Bibbs was unable to work for several days and was separated from his family for the rest of his time on the plantation. Bibbs held back the rage to retaliate, because fighting back meant death and he refused to face death (Black 106). This is what made male slaves feel emasculated and powerless, they had to be brutally abused in front of their peers and family, but there was nothing that could be done to stop it. His pride was stripped off him and beaten away with each lash and flog that he faced.

Sometimes slaves would fight back, such as the actions of Solomon Northup. Unlike Bibbs, Northup was born a free man and was captured and brought into slavery. This ignited a different type of anger within that Bibbs did not have. Northup brought a lot of insight to the truth of how brutal slavery was. He recalled that, “Twenty-five [lashes] are deemed a mere brush, inflicted, for instance…when a branch is broken in the field… (Black 108).” This recollection goes to show that slaves—men for the most part—would face brutal punishments even for the slightest of mistakes, like a broken branch. Even no mistakes could lead to punishment if the slave owner felt like it. The day that Northup decided to fight back and stand up to his slave owner, is a day that he regrets. He pushed his slave owner down, seized his whip, and struck him repeatedly (Black 109). The reason that he regrets this is because he knew that severe punishment would come, in fact, his slave owner attempted to hang him, but decided to stop so that Northup could live a life of increased fear and more pain.

This is only a pebble in an entire mountain of history. I encourage everyone to read history from certified, credible sources and to deepen your knowledge on subjects that weren’t taught enough in secondary school, or high school. This concerns all histories and subjects, not just that of the United States and slavery. History is very important and much of the present can be explained by history. Education is a gift and knowledge is power.

Texts Used:

Dismantling Black Manhood: Daniel P. Black

Out of the House of Bondage-The Transformation of the Plantation Household: Thavolia Glymph

Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South: Deborah Gray White

           

E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N

All my life I have always been very serious about school. Every assignment. Every test. Every set of notes. Complete seriousness. While I am partially serious because of the large sum of money I am putting into my education, there is another deeper reason that backs my determination.

I think that most of us can agree that access to education, just like food and water, is a human right—but, let’s be honest with ourselves and recognize that we live in a world where it is not. Everyone deserves to expand their knowledge and have access to the things that give us that knowledge. But that was not always the case. Not too long ago, my not so distant ancestors were not given that right, because much of society barely recognized as human. So many people have died so that I can sit in a classroom at Palmer College of Chiropractic and learn. People fought like hell, faced abuse, and were murdered so that I could pursue my dream. Education and school oftentimes seem like a burden to many people, but if you look at how much of a privilege it is, it may make you appreciate it more. I recently watch a movie titled, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, this movie took place in Wimbe, Malawi and within the movie I realized how privileged I was to attend school. The boy in the movie was very intelligent and he loved school, but his family could not pay the dues and the boy was ripped out of school. He attended one science class, despite being kicked out, and the director of the school noticed him. The boy was then expelled from school and was never allowed to attend any school in the district ever again. He was absolutely crushed. It is not that the director did not want the boy to attend, it was simply that the village needed every penny in order to pay the staff and keep the school running. I thought back on the many years of education that I had under my belt and then I thought about how angry I was to go to school. I recalled many mornings where I would roll out of bed with a scowl on my face and scoff as I walked out the door. The only word that I could think about was ungrateful.

“Education truly is a privilege. With more than 70 million children who have no access to primary education, it becomes obvious that not all are guaranteed the right to education.”

Steve Mueller

If you are in school right now, be grateful because I can guarantee you that there is some child out there who would switch places with you in an instant. If you are a woman or a person of color, remember how many people died just so you could sit in that classroom and study. Education may seem like a pain in the ass and a commonality for us all, but not long ago in the United States, education was a luxury that very few were seen to be worthy of having. Even in the modern day, in countries all over the world, there are families who drain their entire savings just to send their children to school, unsure if they can afford another year. There are children who lay in their beds broken and confused wondering, “Why can my friends go to school but I can’t?” We can all shit talk the education system and how expensive school is, and do not get me wrong I think the price of education is absurd. But how many of us complain about going to school, skip classes, don’t do our work, and put forth little effort in class? If anything, we should be working our asses off given the inflated rate we pay for each damn class. I am not saying that I do not slack off sometimes, because I do and I need to work on my focus and put forth more of myself in my work—although, oftentimes I put too much of myself into my work.

All I am trying to say is that before you decide to not go to class the entire semester or blow off an assignment, think of that little child who would do anything in the world just to be given a homework assignment from a teacher. Or that distant ancestor who was beat to death because they were marching all day and night for the opportunity to hear at least one teacher speak. School is important and school is serious. It doesn’t matter if you want to go to trade school, a liberal arts school, or any school that exists—it is all the same and they are all privileges that we often don’t see how precious they really are. Even grade school and high school are important for all the same reasons—I have a deep sense of sureness that being told that you cannot go to school is a much bigger burden than having to wake up early to go to school.

Not only is school a privilege, think about the teachers that spend their lives guiding you. Yes, not all teachers put forth the effort that should be, but I believe that a lot of teachers are truly superheroes. Teachers are people who dedicate their lives to give you knowledge to help you fulfill your dream. I cannot recall how many times I have sat in a lecture and have watched a professor spill out their entire heart and soul into the lecture because it was their passion. Yet still some students sat on their phones and paid the professor no mind. Some professors and teachers choose to teach because they love what they teach about. It is their passion. Their life’s work. Everything that they love. If you can see that passion and hear it in their words, why not listen to them? Why not try to understand why they love it so much? We are such a disconnected age of people—hell, we have always been such a damn disconnected society. Start listening to people, rather than hearing them, and I can assure you that you so many people will start to become so much more beautiful, because people are so damn beautiful.

“Listening means taking a second to consider what they’re saying, not just hearing their words”

Unknown

If you decide to attend school, why not give it your all? Why not do the best that you can? It may seem like such a small part of your life, but to someone out there, it would be their world if they had the opportunity to go. I know the seemingly endless mound of debt is frustrating, but debt is a small price to pay to fulfill your dream—you could just not have the opportunity at all. Think about the lives that have been lost, the people who have been brutally beaten, and the shouts that have been heard just so that YOU could sit in class, right that paper, take that test, and be educated. Education is just as much of a privilege in this world as water and food—they should all be human RIGHTS, but we live in the twisted reality that they are not. We can continue to fight the system and make it a human right, but while we do that, we sure as hell must treat it like one ourselves.

Appreciate what you have because what is an insignificance to you is a luxury to others.

High School Graduation Day, 2018

Being Biracial

New Years Eve, 2008

I am very proud to be a woman of a mixed ethnic background, or as many would say, biracial. I find myself struggling to choose the term that is most “politically correct,” because race itself, such as: black and white, is a social construction. As a society, we have racialized ourselves, and I’m not sure how that can be undone. For the sake of this blog, I will use the term biracial, white, and black because I find no offense to those terms. Also, I must say that I understand there are endless combinations that could make one biracial, but this is my experience as being a woman with Irish, Italian, and Northern Africa heritage.

May I also add that this is in no way me complaining about being biracial and the things that I deal with, I am simply giving personal insight on what it is like to be a person of mixed race. I feel that it is important to know peoples struggles because then you can understand them more. I can guarantee that there are several others with a similar ethnic background that have experienced and felt similar things than I have. So, please, store this information in your mind and take it into consideration in your daily life.

Christmas Eve, 2018

Honestly. Being biracial can be so confusing at times and all the terminology makes it even worse. “Black” has been used to refer to those of African descent, but it also refers to anyone with a dark skin tone. But then I am also a light skin because I am a “lighter black.” But I am also white because when asked of the race I am when I fill out papers that do not have the ‘more than one race’s’ option, I select ‘black/African American’ and ‘white.’ I have had people tell me that I am not black enough to call myself black, but also people laugh at me when I say that I am white. It is almost like you can never win sometimes. Then there is also the fact that although I am white, I do not experience white privilege; however, since I am “light skin,” I know that I do experience light-skin privilege at times. It really is just like you’re stuck in the middle.

Probably one of the most frustrating things is the way that much of society looks at my family. I could not count on both of my hands the amount of disapproving and dirty looks that we have gotten from people in public. For some reason, in 2019, there are still people who think that “colors should not mix,” but let me tell you something, the world is not a fucking washing machine. I guess that these moments have made me love myself more and have pushed me to be proud of who I am. Sometimes, when I am feeling strong enough, I just take the negative energy and hate from others and use it to fuel my soul in hopes of some of my positive energy getting shared with those showing me the hate. Something else that I have had to deal with is hate from both sides of my ancestry. I have had dirty words and painful insults said to me from both those who identify as white and dark-skinned black people. I would have to say that it hurts more coming from the latter because what they don’t know is that I have experienced some of the discrimination that they have. That is something I never understood. Every group in this world that has been discriminated against at a large, social level should never show hate towards one another because we are all in the same damn boat and if we don’t band together and overcome, that damn boat is going to sink.

Palmer Campus Visit, 2018

If there is one thing that I would like to leave you with is that it doesn’t matter where someone came from or what they look like. If you love someone, then love them—and you should love everyone because at the end of the day we are all living this same confusing-ass life and we are more alike than we will ever be different. Appreciate and love all the beautiful diversity around you because one day, when your life ends, you want to be able to look back and think, “I was a person of love.”

A few philosophies I live by…

If there is one thing about myself that I am most proud of, it would be my ethnicity. Many people preach on how people should “not see color,” but to me, that is a load of bullshit. I hold the belief that people should see color and appreciate it. Recognize the cultural differences that we all have with each other and love them.

Educate yourself, surround yourself with those different from you, and before you know it, those differences will seem so minimal compared to the similarities that exist. I would say that my ethnic background has been the cause of instances of discrimination in my life, but it is not my ethnicity that caused the discrimination, it is society. Never feel that it is your fault for the terrible and horrendous things that others can do to you. No one deserves the pain that they receive.

The first instance of racism that I remember experiencing was when I was in the fourth grade, about eight or nine years old. I had gotten in an argument with an old friend, and that friend had called me the “n-word.” Now, as a young child, I had no idea what that word meant, and I went about my day. I came home and told my mother of the argument and the exchange of words and she was livid. It was that day that I was told what a racial slur was and why people use them. It was that day that I was made aware of racism. Since then there have been countless moments where I have recognized that I was being discriminated against. Whether it was girls on track teams crediting my speed to my blackness or dirty looks getting shown my way as my interracial family and I dine for dinner at a nice restaurant, I felt the hate the same way and it never hurts any less.

The thing about experiencing the microaggressions, slurs, and other hateful comments and actions, is that you must reach a point of acceptance that not everyone will like you for whatever reason and that is okay. You could argue with every person who is hateful towards you, or you could simply accept that that person has their opinion, show them love, and move on with life. Moving on with life and moving past the harsh words of others is the only way to survive. Sometimes it may seem impossible to release the negativity from others that you have internalized within yourself, but it is always possible to grow, and it is always possible to heal your soul.

I remember one day in an Intercultural Communications class I took when I was at DePaul, a very wise professor once told us that the worst lesson taught to most as children is that “sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” My professor was right. If there is one thing that I have learned throughout my life is that most of the time, words do more damage than sticks and stones ever could. Physical wounds are mostly visible and can usually be healed and cured, but emotional wounds? Emotional wounds grow every single day and hide themselves in toxic behaviors and are much harder to heal. I know it seems basic to say we should all “treat everyone with kindness,” but if it is such a basic thought, then why the hell are things the way they are? Yes, sometimes words get said during arguments that we do not necessarily mean, but then apologize for the words that you have said and be sure that it is a sincere apology that comes from your soul.

There is too little time in our lives to hate others and to hurt others—just love everyone. The idea that love can only be romantic is agonizing. Love can be whatever we want it to be. Make it your goal to show everyone love, even those who do you wrong, because those are the ones that need to be shown love the most. Another wise professor that I currently have at Palmer College of Chiropractic told my class that, “an enemy is just a friend whose story you don’t know.” This is also something that I believe very deeply within my soul. People like to think that they have others figured out, but we don’t even have ourselves figured out. People like to talk about how they “hate” certain television stars and artists, yet what do we really know about them? Hate is such a dirty and painful word, but it is used so loosely.

The next time you find yourself getting angered with someone that you do not know, take a deep breath and remind yourself that they have things going on in their life that you do not know and empathize with them—never pity them. Pity is ridiculous. Feeling bad for someone is pointless. You sit there with a sorry look on your face and watch them as they continue to struggle. But when you feel empathy and become an empathetic person you recognize their struggle, imagine if you were to be in that struggle, and then act on that feeling you get from imagining.

Regardless of any demographic quality you have, I know that you have experienced pain and hate from someone. Everyone does. You know how bad pain hurts and how it feels to hurt. That feeling deep in your chest that you get when you think of that painful event or when you think of the words that were said to you, do not forget it. Remember that feeling and every time you think about treating another person less than what you would like to be treated, think about that pain you felt and realize that you are about to make another person feel that way. Once you become that person that makes another person hurt, you become no more than the person that hurt you. Be the lover, not the hater. Spread love. Xx

“Lions don’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.”

Flatbush Zombies “Palm Trees”