They Were Her Property by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
almost finished the intro!
note: I have now since finished the intro, as you'll soon see if you read further.
“[Some historians] contend that formerly enslaved people could not possibly have understood what slavery entailed because, after all, most of them were only children when slavery thrived thrived in the South.” (xviii).
imagine being a historian with a degree and a job teaching history or whatever, arguing that former slaves don’t understand slavery …
Teach CRT in schools!
some of the goodreads reviews will warn you that it’s “dry and under-sourced”.
for the first point, not everything has to be “entertaining”, and what’s dry and “moist” is subjective from person to person.
imo, it’s perfectly interesting to me but ymmv.
admittedly, i did end up later skimming through the second section "I Belong to de Mistis". But I've been doing that since at least college, if not high school.
smart people don’t read books, we skim books.yours truly~.
as for the allegations that it’s “under-sourced”, the reviewers apparently want numerical / quantitative data on how common women slave-owners was.
the bibliography is over 20 pages long 📚. seems pretty well-sourced to me.
feels like goal-shifting on the reviewers’ parts.
additionally, in the very introduction, the author notes that many of these slave-owning white women were unable to read, write, or both; so most of the info we have on them comes from their slaves.
slaves who were likely too busy getting beaten to death and/or being forced to breast-feed to take surveys on how many slave-owning white women there were, or how many slaves they owned.
with the misogyny baked into US law, i would just assume that any wife or female relative of a man who owned slaves also owned slaves.
idk why i’m so salty about these reviews. maybe i just care a little too much about the book?
i used to be bored to death in history class cuz for me, 99% of it was pilgrims and puritans, with only occasional dalliances into other places around the globe.
all of it christianized too. fellow homeschooled kids, say hey!
as i’ve gotten older and become able to learn about actual history, not the stories privileged white christian propagandists told me, i’ve learned that it’s not history that’s boring, it’s their propaganda.
maybe that’s why i’m taking these reviews too seriously.
reviewers demanding entertainment and numbers out of slaves who are all probably dead at this point 🙄. some people repeat history even after learning from it, apparently. losers.
“[T]he intimacies that might have been forged between them over the years made no difference to the power that their society accorded to this young white girl over her racial ‘inferiors’.” (10).
Page 13 discusses a paper for young readers called the Rose Bud (later renamed the Southern Rose). It taught them “proper” slave-owning techniques and stuff like that. Apparently, it was popular enough that kids would try to take issues from their classmates. It was even used to teach children how to articulate counterarguments to abolition.
- “All around them, white girls found evidence of their difference from and superiority to enslaved people, as well as of the many privileges their whiteness brought them. They recognized who was and who was not chained to others in slave coffles; who was and who was not shrieking and reaching for a child torn from a family’s arms. They noticed who was and who was not missing from the fields and the household, and whose absences the remaining enslaved people mourned. All these observations enabled them to understand the chasm between the free and enslaved, between those seen as human merchandise and those seen as human beings, and ultimately, to acknowledge the security their whiteness brought them.” (16-17).
- “Ben Johnson’s master, for example, sold Ben’s brother Jim in order to pay for his daughter’s wedding dress. Transactions such as these served as a brutal lesson for the other enslaved people in Ben Johnson’s community, and an equally important one for the bride: she could always sell one of her slaves, separating [them] from everything and everyone [they] knew and loved, if a more pressing need, like the purchase of a new dress, arose. (18).
- “In their letters, diaries, and family Bibles, mistresses tabulated gains and losses in the wealth that was bound up in the bodies of the infants and children they owned.” (22).
- “White women embraced their role within this community, assumed positions of power over slaves within and outside their households, and challenged anyone who attempted to infringe upon that power. And local, state, and federal courts recognized, upheld, and protected them when they did so.” (62).
- “When [Anna] Miller’s mistress whipped with the nettleweed, Miller remembered, ‘de licks ain’ts so bad, but de stingin’ and de burnin’ after am sho’ misery. Dat jus’ plum runs me crazy.’ The small hais that cover the stems of the nettleweed, also known as ‘stinging nettle,’ probably caused the sensation Miller described. Those small hairs contain several chemicals that cause intense pain when they come into contact with the skin. When the affected area was rubbed, the motion would push the hairs, and the pain-inducing chemicals, deeper into the skin, prolonging the pain and irritation. Miller’s mistress’s weapon of choice had a long-lasting, increasingly painful effect on the bodies of the enslaved females living within her household.” (71).
- “Mastery and domination masqueraded as kindness and benevolence.” (75).
- “Medical schools across the nation bought the bodies of deceased enslaved people from southern slave owners for dissection and research and thereby offered slave owners a profitable way to make such bodies disappear.” (78).
- “Martha Jones’ parents did not think that exposing their daughter to her uncle’s [slave] business would warp her sense of humanity or make her less feminine, sensitive, or marriageable.” (81).
- “Not only did slave-owning women participate in the public haggling over black bodies in the slave pen, the slave yard, and the auction block, they frequently subjected enslaved people to the terror of the slave market in the privacy of their homes.” (82).
- “On the rare occasions when we do hear the voices of slave traders’ wives, we find that these women exhibited far more concern about their husbands’ long absences from home than the fact that their husbands sold human beings for a living.” (90).
- “For a thousand dollars, the dying woman sold her blacksmith away from his wife and children, whom he probably never saw again.” (93).
- “When confronted with enslaved women’s emotional responses to losing or being separated from their children, white southerners construed their grief as ‘the sulks,’ or even a form of madness―”vices,” flaws, or pathological conditions―that made such women less valuable and less desirable in the slave market.” (121).
- “White women separated enslaved mothers from their children and placed their own infants at the breasts of these women. They compelled enslaved women to suckle their white children shortly after these mothers had lost their own. They denied enslaved women the right to publicly express their grief. In short, they perpetuated acts of maternal violence against these enslaved mothers, and the slave market made this violence possible.” (122).
- “Her gender and motherhood did nothing to compel her to sympathize with the enslaved woman’s plight.” (130).
- “When Rose Russell’s mistress decided to sell her, she asked Russell which of her parents she loved the most. Russell contemplated the questioned for a few moments before saying she felt the most love for her father. The mistress sold Russell with her father and separated the young girl from her mother.” (135).
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