Women in Bondage: Local and Transnational Histories, Part 2: Daily Life, Sex, and Violence: Enslaved and Freed Women in Brazil and the United States

AHA Session 101
Conference on Latin American History 22
Friday, January 3, 2014: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
William C. Van Norman, James Madison University
Marjoleine Kars, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Session Abstract

This panel discusses the lives of enslaved and freed women both on urban and rural areas in the United States and Brazil during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The four papers discuss how working conditions, sex, and violence played crucial roles in the negotiations to obtain freedom and in the violent responses to the hardships of enslavement. Mariana Dantas's paper compares Brazilian and US slave systems to provide a broad picture of feminine slave labor during the eighteenth century. The paper suggests that demographic and economic factors might have limited the access of enslaved women to more diverse kinds of employment opportunities in urban areas. Dantas sheds light on the impact of women slave labor in United States and Brazil, by showing how women sought for economic opportunities in order to achieve their freedom. Ana Lucia Araujo's paper explores the lives of three enslaved and freed women in Rio Grande do Sul, the southern-most province (present-day state) of Brazil. The paper discusses how these women resisted violence by committing murder. By discussing how enslaved domestic servants, in both wealthy and poor households, were perpetual victims of physical punishment and sexual abuse, the paper explores the general context and specific events that led them to commit crimes.  The paper explores narratives of sexual assault, by showing how white women through forced breeding and complicity with white men. Stephanie Jones-Rogers closes the panel by exploring sexual violence committed by free US southern women (white and African American) against enslaved women during the nineteenth century. Moreover, Jones-Rogers argues that by selling the services of black women, female brothel owners also committed sexual violence. The four papers bring to light unexplored elements of the daily lives of enslaved, freed, and free black women in the New World. By underscoring violence and the fight for freedom as elements that follow the trajectory of black women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the panel contributes to illuminate issues that have not been explored in the scholarship on slavery in the Americas.