Slave trade refers to the business of shifting slaves from Africa to the North and South America to provide services such as farming to the white cotton plantation owners. This activity mainly occurred between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries.
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During the year 1808 international slave trade was terminated but was quickly replaced by domestic slave trade particularly in the areas of Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi and Alabama. Domestic slave trade as the name suggests referred to the purchase and sale of slaves between various states in the two continents.
White dominion over the Black Africans caused a lot of misery to the slaves particularly women and children. In order to understand how this mistreatment affected the enslaved families we have to look at the kind of mistreatments the enslaved women had to undergo and their repercussions.
Course of exploitation
During the period of domestic trade, black women underwent a lot of continuous pressures while rendering their services as slaves to the white people who only thought and saw them as dehumanized workers. Women in particular were viewed as objects to facilitate the production of more slaves.
Their racial disparity made them a target of all sorts of intense oppression that was meant to propagate and retain the fiscal success and social prestige of their masters who in most cases were the whites in the society. In Virginia the whites forced their dominion in all aspects of the slaves’ lives.
The slave master could choose the marital partners for the women only to separate them in the near future (Duanaway 150). In some occasions extra marital partners were forced on them or their children sold out in their very eyes when it became a prosperous venture and a means of restoring discipline in the slave abodes.
Another disadvantageous occurrence was the mandatory migration of enslaved women from their residential areas in Virginia to other regions of the south to separate them from their spouses. In the years between 1850 and 1860 about 68000 slaves who comprised of women had been shipped to other Southern parts.
This was done with disregard to the family bonds that already existed between them. The few White who valued these family connections believed that future separation in their new homes could not be ascertained.
According to Stevenson claims, about seventy four of all slaves exported vacated the state with no family members to accompany them (2). Those exported were well below fifty years and slightly above twenty which meant that they were majorly spouses or parents during the time of forced migration.
When they displeased their masters black women were taken through torture experience in order to instill discipline. Some would be tied to a bench and flogged while naked with a wooden paddle. This would normally happen in front of their children or other members of the slave community.
The immediate effect was the endangering of women’s authority domestically. Despite being the white masters’ intensions, rarely did the children loose the respect they had for their mothers. At times black women would be forced to watch as their children were mercilessly being beaten without uttering even a single word.
Infrequent favoring of some of the black children by the white families denied black women the right to instill discipline in their offspring as they would not do so in the presence of their masters. Such tribulations had adverse and variable effects not only on the black women but also on other members of the family (Duanaway 167).
Effects of women harassment
The unions between slaves as men and wives were not respected issues in the eyes of the elite White slave holders. They could choose a spouse for a slave black woman at their own pleasure or even separate them at will. To them women were meant to increase the number of slaves whenever they felt they needed to do so.
It is due to this fact that women who could bear up to six children were rarely sold out. Forcing partners on them sometimes ended badly as they did not get along well. They would end up fighting on numerous occasions and this undeniably tormented their children psychologically (Duanaway 150).
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In cases where a black woman was married and was forced to separate with the husband due to the frequent slave sales that occurred another male slave was chosen for her. This new husband would molest her children by issuing over board punishments in the name of instilling discipline in the children.
However, due to her physical disadvantage and slave mentality black women had nothing to say or do. When the sale of slaves became a prosperous venture black women would sometimes be sold and this implied that they would leave their spouses grieving especially when there was great love between them (Duanaway 156).
The men particularly hated their inability to help their spouses in instances of torture from their masters. Sometimes they were forced to watch as their wives were being molested sexually without any sayings. Those who tried to confront the perpetrators were either beaten ruthlessly or sometimes killed.
Unlike black women, male slaves were sometimes allowed by their masters to make choices of black women they would prefer as their wives. Some masters would not however allow this but would only choose a woman they felt appropriate to procreate.
They did not care whether the woman slave was pretty or just ugly during the time of purchase. When a man got an ugly wife he would have children with her but in the long run would molest her due to the ensuing hatred for her. The white masters normally kept the beautiful slaves for themselves (Dunaway 14).
The fact that women were only valued for reproduction meant that several women would be forced to have intercourse with one man. This angered men who felt they had the obligation to be faithful to their wives.
Nonetheless, according to the slave rules the affairs of the slaves were all at the discretion of the elite white masters and the slaves had no business questioning their actions (Bell 19). After all they were their properties acquired with their own money.
Inability of the men to intervene in matters concerning their families sometimes made them to change their behaviors. For instance, some became alcoholic, jealous and the ultimate end was domestic violence. Adultery also became a characteristic of any marriage that never ended well with the kids trapped in it.
These white tendencies were sometimes taken up by other slaves who would desire other men’s wives. Stevenson gives an example of a man who persisted in his pursuit of his first wife even after learning of her existent marriage with children (16). When the woman’s husband was finally sold away he married her.
Later when the woman passed on the slave members who still believed in the holiness of a union between a man and a woman termed her death as his reward for what had happened.
In rare occasion these adulterous associations would sometimes result in contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. The slaves had limited health care services available to them. This could be the reason for many deaths without known causes that often befell the slaves.
The white men’s sexual hostility toward the slave women who were married may have caused a lot of anxiety and conflict among slave marriage relationships. It surely had its results. Sometimes these slave women got pregnant and bore colored children much to the amazement of their fellow slaves or husbands who found the children looking a little bit different from the rest.
In case they found out, men despite being aware of the women inability to resist the white men hideous acts would target their wives with frustrations, anger and guilt rather than their masters who had perpetrated the act.
Most women were embarrassed with these acts and would do all it took to keep it away from their husbands (Duanaway 212). They would end their spouses’ suspicious instincts by making up alibis to cover up the obvious stories.
Colored children were bombarded with feelings of shame and confusion about their mixed marriage parentage. They sometimes reacted by rejecting their white parentage due to the hostility associated with the likes of the supposed parents.
However, the utmost trial comes in dealing with their fellow slaves who felt jealous that the colored kids were considered highly above them. Patience Richardson for instance quickly rejected the idea that she had a white father despite her tender age at the time of such happenings.
Later when her mother died she was forced to stay with her aunt who not only mistreated her but also made her accomplish difficult jobs. This partial racial difference between her and her slave relatives caused her both emotional and physical torture as she grew up.
Her maternal uncle’s wife cruel nature was not unfounded rather it sprouted from the fact that Patience had a partial white parentage. Later she escaped only to run to a white man’s house where she was treated better in exchange for a few services rendered at the house of the white man.
Due to the sensitivity of these issues to both mother and family members these children were often instructed not to talk about their parentage.
Though there was general hostility towards colored children the reactions from family members and friends were sometimes mixed and contradictory. A majority of the slaves felt uneasy being around them while other felt they were better than their peers.
These African-Americans were at times considered more attractive than the ordinary slaves and would at times be taken to be their concubines and bear them children. Ary for example was a colored child whose father was a Virginia planter and his servant was particularly proud of her parentage (Duanaway 94).
Owing to her master feelings for her she was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that Ary was way above her peers and was determined not to associate with the black slaves. Therefore while Patience and other coloreds were ashamed of their physical appearance others like Ary were proud of their parentage and were the favorites of the white families.
A Virginia law enacted in 1662 required that the slave children adopt their mothers’ statuses. Since men were rarely at home women took up the role of being the heads of their respective households. They were expected to discipline the children while rearing them besides working in the farms of the white masters. Due to harsh treatment and poor nutrition the mothers’ health were at times too wanting.
Despite these they were expected to bear as many as six children within a time interval of up to twenty two months. This caused them to be weak and they would sometimes end up dead particularly after beatings. Alternatively they would be sold out to other slaveholders who would refuse all pleas for them to carry their children with them irrespective of their age.
Some children would grow up having not known their biological mothers while others would only know them for a few years. Virginia Bell who was a former slave from Louisiana could barely recall her parents’ history (21). They were separated from her many years back while she was still very young.
She did not manage to see them later until they were freed. At one point she even rejected her father’s attempts to reach her by opting to remain with the white masters.
Many of the ex-slaves who grew up in Virginia recall growing up in absence of their mothers. They were brought up by other members of their extended families.
Occasionally they were aware of where their mothers were but due to lack of motherly love as they grew up they did not even miss their mothers. In lucky instances spouses or children and their parents would be reunited especially those who managed to be free after the abolition of the trade (Duanaway 84).
The short frequency of the pregnancies also led to malnourished children who sometimes died a few months after birth.
The success of these children’s live faced several hardships that were not experienced by their white counterparts. When the main bread winners were withdrawn the children had to learn how to fend for themselves at an early age and were left to do jobs that were formerly done by their mothers.
The era for domestic trade presented a harsh surrounding to the slaves as they tried to lead successful lives. Many women succumbed to the difficulties of the period and only a few survived to tell the story.
However, their death or departure was something that affected the families they left behind either directly or indirectly. The resilience and desire to fight for their rights served as an inspiration to their off springs.
Ever since black women arrived on the alien shores, exposure to awful sorts of repression and exploitations became apparent. In fact, black women endured the dismays associated with slavery besides existing amidst the racist communities.
Being constantly seen as workers, black women faced incessant exploitations, they occupied the least income scale category and had the restrictions of merely occupying the most humiliating and un-resourceful jobs.
Black women’s physical image endured all types of defamation instigating from the fulfillment of the irrepressible lusts of their masters to being subjected to the principles of white women who acted as models they ought to have aspired. All these had significant effects on the enslaved families.
While they were seen as mothers in the homesteads, infants were evidently torn from their breasts and consequently sold to the slave traders. Indeed black women had to address the desires of the ruling class progenies while they saw their own children being flown away without the much needed attentions.
Currently, Afro American women evidently see their offspring lack proper schooling, being troubled by dope addiction in addition to falling victims of various attacks. For instance, black women children overpopulates the American prisons, they face legal hanging as well as attack by the racial societies.
Bell, Jeremy. “The Atlantic Slave Trade”. A Unit of Study for Grades 7–12. Apr. 2000. Web.
Duanaway, Wilma. “The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation”. Aug. 2003. Web.
Stevenson, Brenda. “Slavery and the Old South”. Jun. 1992. Web.