The suffering of enslaved women.

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A brief discussion on the realities of slavery during the antebellum era in America and some of the many horrors and brutalities women had lived through during this period.  Slavery was vital for the transformation of America, making it the most economically developed part of the world. It is quite difficult to understand how America could have developed without Slavery in existence. In this context the system of slavery was a universal institution for the exploitation of women.

Slavery began during the 17th century, and by the 18th century abolishment movements began to come into existence. However these discussions over the ending of slavery divided the North and South of America. The central feature of slavery was a no choice relationship on the part the slave, whilst being in complete subordination to the whims and desires of their masters meant that they had to fulfill absolutely any assigned task. By the 1830s slavery was primarily located within the Southern parts of the country where African Americans were enslaved on farms, plantations, both inside cities and towns across the region. Slave Women were generally located within the homes of their masters being responsible for household duties and rearing both their own children and the children of their masters too. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin increased demands for cotton exports from the South of America all the way to England. Slaves were responsible for the cultivation of crops on large plantation fields in addition to transportation tasks which depended heavily on slave labour.

However, the circumstances of slave life varied greatly, some skilled men particularly on plantation fields acquired a sense of self esteem which plantation owners would recognise as a mutual advantage firstly for economic gain as these skilled slaves were able to teach other slaves more efficient skills in order to make the industry thrive.

However, women where living under extreme oppression and mental torture as they were directly being used as sex objects. Although it was a violent system for both men and women. It was the women who were constantly watched over, being raped and abused, while men were tortured for disobedience and for any attempts they made in order to escape their suffering.Women were constantly under the scrutiny of their masters and mistresses, and could be called on for service at any time due to living under the same roof as the slave owners. They had far less privacy than those who worked on the plantation fields. However, due to living within such close proximity, slave women and slave owners had more of a complex relationship.

Children of both the slave women and masters would naturally form friendships. Although, they were too young and innocent to understand the system that they were being brought into. Eventually these children of  these slave women would grow up to  work amongst other slave members on the plantation fields or even worse, being separated from their parents at slave trades. This was a great concern for many mothers as they were constantly threatened of being sold and separated from their children. Some masters where benevolent, however slaves recognized that a financial loss or another personal crisis could lead them to the auction block.

Slaves were sometimes sold as a form of punishment, although popular sentiment encouraged keeping mothers and children together, these norms were not always followed. Immediate families were often separated and were almost always sold away to never see each other again. The harsh treatment of the slave trade was related to the racism of that period. Religious and biological differences led to suggest that black people where not only different species, but also linked to the argument that black people where inherently inferior.

To conclude, enslaved women would always be under constant threat, having no safeguards to protect them from being sexually stalked, harassed, or raped. The abuse was widespread, as men with authority took advantage of the situation of these slave women. Even if a woman seemed agreeable to the situation, in reality she had no choice. Whilst slave men were often left powerless to fight and protect for the women they loved.Very often wives of slave owners would become enraged over their lustful husbands towards these black maids. However being blind to the realities of slave life these white women would often  take up every opportunity to increase the suffering of slave women through  physical and mental abuse.

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