Base Wretches and Black Wenches: A Story of Sex and Race, Violence and Compassion, During Slavery Times
Gonzaga University - School of Law
July 25, 2008
Alabama Law Review, Vol. 59, 2008
This Article examines in detail the local and trial records of a nineteenth-century Texas case to tell the story of a white slave master who had a thirty-year relationship with a female slave. This is a story of complexities and contradictions, and it is a story designed to add depth and detail to our current assumptions about the content of sex between the races during slavery times. Indeed, through these local records - a source traditionally underused by legal historians - the Article provides us with a pathway into the consciousness of ordinary people, and suggests a world with much more flexibility and fluidity along the lines of race and slavery than traditional accounts allow. The amount of sexual exploitation that took place under slavery will surprise no one; but, to hear the former slaves who lived on this plantation talk about it, this couple, at least, lived together as man and wife. It is this story - the story of the everyday life of slavery - that this Article seeks to tell, illuminating in the process a social order that was predicated on racial domination yet where men and women, white and black, often defied those ideologies. Ultimately, this Article concludes that the master narrative of rape so familiar to students of the subject is inadequate to account for a case like this, and urges us instead to focus on the fissures and blind spots created in the logic of slavery to further our understanding of the South and the relations between the races.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: race and the law, legal history, slaveryAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 26, 2008
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