40% of White Women Were Slave Owners, Black Historian Reveals

A recent study reveals a startling revelation about the involvement of a great number of White women during the period of slavery. According to the study, they had a strong interest in the business and grew up learning the trade. 

Contrary to what many were made to believe, White women were greatly involved in slavery during the 1800s, according to a recent study.

WHAT WE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT WHITE WOMEN AND SLAVERY

In her book, “They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South,” author Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers reveals, as a result of her research, that 40% of slave owners between the period of 1850 and 1860 were White women. 

This astounding revelation dispels the notion that it was mostly White men who thrived in the business of enslavement as scholars who wrote about it in the past made us believe. 

Apparently, White women were equally guilty of harboring their own slaves for their personal advancement. In fact, slave owners would gift their daughters with enslaved people instead of land because it was a means to attain higher status for these women. 

"...as young as they were little girls, White women were already trained to beat and abuse slaves."

For instance, the ownership of many slaves afforded them better marriage prospects. As such, they would buy, sell, and manage slaves, a glaring contrast to what was depicted of White women in books. They were said to be against these activities because it was considered improper of them to engage in slavery.

MORE THAN JUST A BUSINESS

Jones-Rogers, a historian from the University of California, Berkeley who released her book in February also adds that as young as they were little girls, White women were already trained to beat and abuse slaves. As adults, they would enslave Black women who are nursing mothers in order to nurse their own White babies. At times, they would go as far as to subject these women to sexual assault in the hands of white men in order to produce a child. 

While her husband [George Washington] was believed to have owned 18 slaves, Martha harbored 84. Thus, she was the richest woman in the state at the time.

It also became the mission of these White women to protect the ownership of their slaves. “For them, slavery was their freedom,” Jones-Rogers says in her book as featured in History.com.

During the civil war, they did everything they could to hide their slaves from troops who sought to free them. One such woman known as Martha Gibbs brought her slaves to Texas where she forced them to work for her at gunpoint until a year before slavery was abolished.

Proof of Jones-Rogers’ research is represented by George Washington’s wife, Martha Washington. While her husband was believed to have owned 18 slaves, Martha harbored 84.  Thus, she was the richest woman in the state at the time.

STILL AN OPEN WOUND

While we’re years past the era of slavery, it’s effects are still very much present today. As columnist Rochelle Riley wrote in a 2018 article on USA Today, it’s “America’s open wound” that many still continue to live with.  Though we are at a time enforcing “Black Lives Matter,” the persistent presence of White supremacy and Black inferiority is an unpleasant reminder of the horrors of that past. 

"It’s a subject that makes us have to face the ugliness of our history against the beauty of American history."

A SUBJECT PUSHED UNDER THE RUG

According to professor Michael Simanga of Georgia State University, there has been no real discussion about this painful era because “it’s a subject that makes us have to face the ugliness of our history against the beauty of American history.” He adds,

“It forces us to then commit to structural changes that the country has not yet gotten ready to address, changes having to do with discriminatory practices — an unequal education system, unequal employment, unequal housing and how we teach our history without including all Americans.”

“Every attempt to discuss some recompense for those years of horror is met, mostly, with outrage by white Americans who say, ‘It wasn’t me, '”

Slavery has remained a taboo topic because talking about it would mean shedding light on who’s to blame. “Every attempt to discuss some recompense for those years of horror is met, mostly, with outrage by white Americans who say, ‘It wasn’t me,'” according to Riley. Thus the subject is often pushed under the rug. 

It may take a while for America to finally see an open discussion about that distant time that still haunts us today. But thanks to the efforts of people like Jones-Rogers, we’re learning more about what really transpired back then.

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