Women in Bondage: Local and Transnational Histories, Part 5: Paths of Motherhood: Enslaved Women in United States and Latin America

AHA Session 181
Conference on Latin American History 47
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Matt D. Childs, University of South Carolina Columbia
Maria Helena Pereira Toledo Machado, University of São Paulo

Session Abstract

This panel discusses the struggles of enslaved and freed mothers to resist violence and acquire full citizenship in three different slave societies of the Americas. In "Slinging Babies: The Perils of Motherhood for Enslaved Africans and Native Americans," Kay Wright Lewis, examines how violence affected the experiences of enslaved women (African, African American, and native) in the United States. Lewis's argument underscores the trauma lived by these enslaved women as a result from the killing of their children by white slave owners and associate these murders as potential racial extermination. By exploring the Cuban context during nineteenth century, William C. Van Norman's paper discusses how enslaved women coped with problems they faced in their daily lives and how violence mediated their actions. Van Norman argues that through these actions women exerted tensions on Cuban slave system. In the third paper, Nicolette Kostiw explores the aftermath of the Free Womb Law of 1871 in Brazil. The paper shows how after 1871 the treatment of orphaned children changed in Brazil. Kostiw explains how during this period the legal system started using tutela (guardianship of orphans) as a means to control the growing number of free black children in Brazilian society. The panel provides a complex overview of the intersection between slavery and motherhood in the New World. The papers contribute to a better understanding on how motherhood could be an instrument for slave women agency and resistance, and at the same time how the slave system used motherhood to exert control on enslaved women.