The Mistreatment of Women in Slavery before an Emancipation Proclamation

The treatment of women in the United States during slavery varied depending on time, and parts of the country. Slavery in the United States can be traced back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when it was legal in the country and became common within much of the nation until it got abolished when the Emancipation Proclamation was introduced. It was awful for women like Harriet Jacobs who was a writer, abolitionist, speaker, and reformer.

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She escaped to the north in 1842, where she was taken in by anti-slavery friends from the Philadelphia vigilante committee. They helped her get to New York in September in 1845, where she was able to help many freed slaves. In 1861, Jacobs’ autography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl which reveals Jacobs’ hardship as a slave woman, how she overcame challenges and gained freedom for herself and for her children was published. The other article, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage, which was written by Mustakeem (2016) also reveals how slave women and men treated, got unexpectedly abducted from their villages, and forcefully travelled over the Atlantic ocean to be exchanged as commodities or sold during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This book exposes how the unexpectedly abducted slaves’ voyages got treated and the disappointing experiences; in particular, women slaves had to face such as getting raped, being tied up together as animals and getting thrown off the boats to demolish their feelings and dehumanize them in order to avoid fighting back or escaping. These both books, explain in depth how the treatment of slave women in slavery looked like during the Antebellum History of the United States of America which is considered to be the period between the war of 1812 and civil war.

The women’s movement could be able to arouse sorrow for mistreated women among whites and obtain their help for their anti-slavery movement led by abolitionists and could initiate a government towards the introduction of the Emancipation Proclamation. In the 1800s, women were thought to be weak, unintelligent, and overall inferior to men in their communities; moreover, women born into slavery had a harsh and disappointing time. For instance, Harriet Jacobs, daughter of Delilah, the slave of Margaret Hornblow, and Daniel Jacobs, the slave of Andrew Knox, came to this world in Edenton, North Carolina, in the fall of 1813. Jacobs had no idea that she was the property of someone (a slave) until her mother died at her age of six. When Jacobs turned 12, her mistress who taught her how to read, write, and sew died since then she started facing obstacles that she was not expected. She had two children at her age of 20, but sexual exploitation drove her into hiding for 7-years until she was able to escape to New York in 1842. Finally, she could be able to reunite with her two children. They are so many similar recorded stories about the treatment of women in slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation. Most of women slaves were exposed to sexual exploitation, forced to split-up from their loved ones, and subjected to get more beatings by their owners if a slave tried to save or defend them from any types of abuses, like sexual, at their hands of their owners, usually by slave owners, white males. They were not even allowed to defend themselves against any mistreatments or abuses. Most of the people may not aware of how the process of bringing slaves into America from their native soil was harsh and brutal.

They were kidnapped forcefully and sold to slave traders in exchange for money or commodities. According to John (2014) only luck few slaves, one captured slave in three slaves, could be survived in their long journey from Africa until they got to America, and they were used to hand to people who kept them busy and poor situations. In their resided country, USA, they could face challenges such as a physical abuse, long work day, malnutrition, and no medical attention after severe injuries. In 1825, Harriet and her brother, John S Jacobs (William) moved into the household of Dr. Flint. Shortly after Harriet and John situated her father died. This situation made her life worse, feeling alone and unhappy, and unbearable. In addition, it exposed and facilitated her to a sexual exploitation. Dr. Flint told her that he was going to build a small cottage house for her, in a secluded place, four miles away from town to make her his concubine. In the end, he came and told her the house was built, and he ordered her to go to it. At age of fifteen, feeling hopeless to escape Dr. Flint, Jacobs entered to a sexual relationship with a Mr. Sands whom she had already introduced and seemed to her a great thing to have and by degrees, a more tender feeling crept into her heart. The union of Mr. Sands, an unmarried white lawyer and future U.S. Congressman and Jacobs produced a son, Joseph, in 1829, and a daughter, Louisa Matilda, in 1833. The story of Jacobs’ life lists some of the hardships faced by women in slavery in ?the antebellum period’ and during the last decades before an emancipation proclamation could be in effect. Before the Emancipation Proclamation was legally introduced, in the 1800s and 1700s, attempting to escape was a difficult thing women had to face because most often they could have kids, and could be the only one who used to feed a whole family and could be the only source of a family’s income.

For instance, in the case of Nancy Gindrat; a slave woman, who was owned by James Epingger, could be able to escape on October 12, 1829, from her master. She was in finding for more than two years and her master promised to offer a price of $350, which was higher than any other slave’s price, to who-ever could find her. Despite all the offerings that James made to get her back, she managed to be remained free. In another similar case, wishing that by seeming to hide Harriet Jacobs could induce Dr. Flint to sell her children to her father; Jacobs hid herself in a crawl space above storeroom in her grandmother’s house in the summer of 1835. In that “little dismal hole” she remained for the next seven years, sewing, reading the Bible, keeping watch over her children as best she could, and writing occasional letters to Dr. Flint designed to confuse him as to her actual whereabouts. Jacobs explained the moment she was in hiding in her words as At times, I was stupefied and listless; at other times I became very impatient to know when these dark years would end, and I should again be allowed to feel the sunshine, and breathe the pure air.” One can see by reading Jacobs’ and Nancy’ life stories that women were forced to split up or broken up with their loved ones, husband, and children because their families or women themselves could be sold whenever their masters (men who have people working for) or mistresses (masters’ wives) wanted to do it like one would sell his/her property, furniture or animal. Not all slaves that had a chance to escape had the same luck, only a very few numbers of slave women who escaped could stay free without getting found back and having difficulties. The slave owners did not care about in tearing families apart; all they used to think was about getting money and services.

The era before the end of a civil war can be reminded in the history of the United States of America as the era slave women suffered many traumas. The narrative book penned by Harriet Anne Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and other stories that shared in this document have been providing and been inspiring the following generations with an understanding and revealing a look at often-undocumented histories of women in slavery. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of the bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Henceforward, hopes started to come for many American women who had wanted freedom and suffered under slaves. This proclamation did not affect and apply to slaves already under the Southern army. Using freed black men and freed slaves, eventually, helped Lincoln to win the civil war.

Bibliography

Dudley Taylor Cornish, The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army, 1861“1865 (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1956), pp. 1“12 Jean Fagon Yellin, ed. September 1810November 1843: Slavery and Resistance, Harriet Jacobs Family Papers, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2008. PP. 1-51. Ljungquist, Kent P. 2013. “James L. Machor, Reading Fiction in Antebellum America: Informed Response and Reception Histories.” Nineteenth-Century Prose no. 1: 246. Literature Resource Center, EBSCOhost (accessed February 27, 2018).

Mustakeem, Sowande M. 2016. Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed February 20, 2018).

Schwartz, Barry. 2015. “The Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln’s Many Second Thoughts.” Society 52, no. 6: 590. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost.

Sekora, John. 2014. “Harriet Jacobs.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed February 21, 2018).

Susan Hardy Aiken An Incident in the Life of a Slaveholder: The Search for Nancy Gindrat.. The New England Quarterly, vol. 78, no. 1, 2005, pp. 77“100. JSTOR, JSTOR.

Tolley, R. “Women in American history: a social, political, and cultural encyclopedia and document collection: v.1: Precolonial North America to the early Republic; v.2: Antebellum America through the Gilded Age; v.3: Progressive Era through World War II; v.4: Cold War America to today.” CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 2017., 1798, Literature Resource Center, EBSCOhost (accessed February 21, 2018).

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