Book Review They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers

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Pat Young

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#24
The book received a laudatory review in the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/26/...omen-slave-owners-stephanie-jones-rogers.html

From the NY Times Review:

She knew, but she didn’t participate — not fully. She participated, but she didn’t know — not everything. She was a bystander. She was an anomaly.

The full role of white women in slavery has long been one of the “slave trade’s best-kept secrets.” “They Were Her Property,” a taut and cogent corrective, by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, examines how historians have misunderstood and misrepresented white women as reluctant actors. The scholarship of the 1970s and ’80s, in particular, did much to minimize their involvement, depicting them as masters in name only and even, grotesquely, as natural allies to enslaved people — both suffered beneath the boot of Southern patriarchy, the argument goes.

Jones-Rogers puts the matter plainly. White slave-owning women were ubiquitous. Not only did they profit from, and passionately defend, slavery, but the institution “was their freedom.” White women were more likely to inherit enslaved people than land. Their wealth brought them suitors and gave them bargaining power in their marriages. If their husbands proved unsatisfactory slave owners in their eyes, the women might petition for the right to manage their “property” themselves, which they did, with imaginative sadism.
 

Pat Young

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#26
From the conclusion of the NY Times review:

Jones-Rogers is a crisp and focused writer. She trains her gaze on the history and rarely considers slavery’s reverberations. They are felt on every page, however. It is impossible to read her on “maternal violence” — the abuse of black mothers and babies during slavery — without thinking of black maternal mortality rates today. This scrupulous history makes a vital contribution to our understanding of our past and present.
 

Pat Young

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The Nation reviews the book:
https://www.thenation.com/article/s...ty-slave-south-civil-war-book-review-history/

From the review:

Jones-Rogers shows that white slave-owning women in the South did not fight racial patriarchy. Because the system was open to them on the basis of whiteness, they joined it. They wouldn’t let it go. They Were Her Property is a story of white women attaining power, and the book makes it undeniably clear that there is nothing inherently feminist or liberatory about the mere fact of women gaining power. It reminds us that we must always ask: power of what kind, and at what cost?
 

unionblue

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#29
Not only are white men bad, white women are too!
@RobertP ,

You miss the point.

Slavery, was, and is, bad, no matter what sex benefits from it.

The book and Pat's review of it, simply reinforces the notion, there was no such thing as a "kindly" slave master.

There is simply the degree to the violence which was employed to force compliance of that slavery.
 
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#30
@RobertP ,

You miss the point.

Slavery, was, and is, bad, no matter what sex benefits from it.

The book and Pat's review of it, simply reinforces the notion, there was no such thing as a "kindly" slave master.

There is simply the degree to the violence which was employed to force compliance of that slavery.
18 mos. ago we witnessed a thread on a then recent book called The Delectable Negro, Human Comsumption and Homoeroticism Within the US Slave Culture. It was actually an award winner written by another African American Studies professor.


Enjoy . . .

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/th...-within-us-slave-culture.139272/#post-1667449

Maybe Pat can review this one for us next time.
 

byron ed

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...that this "Her Property..." author teaches at the University of California, Berkeley is as much a warning as it is a fact for those of us who have been reading Civil War for years. We'll consider it our "Post-modern / Politically-correct" alert :smoke:
 
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Pat Young

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18 mos. ago we witnessed a thread on a then recent book called The Delectable Negro, Human Comsumption and Homoeroticism Within the US Slave Culture. It was actually an award winner written by another African American Studies professor.
...Maybe Pat can review this one for us next time.
No need to wait for me to read it.
Any member of CWT can review a book. If you want your review featured, please use the Book Review banner available in the drop-down next to the title bar. The title of the thread should be the title of the book and the aithor’s name. Please put an image of the book on the first line of the body of the review. This allows the book cover to appear in the featured area.
 
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#34
Not only are white men bad, white women are too!
White female slave owners, like male slave owners, did not think of themselves as bad, according to most of what I've read. Slave ownership indicated a higher class and status.

Slave ownership was a good thing, in their minds. Slave ownership did not involve guilt or shame, it's something that elevated them.

Of course, enslaved people would have looked at things in a different way.

- Alan
 
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unionblue

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unionblue

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#36
White female slave owners, like male slave owners, did not think of themselves as bad, according to most of what I've read. Slave ownership indicated a higher class and status.

Slave ownership was a good thing, in their minds. Slave ownership did not involve guilt or shame, it's something that elevated them.

Of course, enslaved people would have looked at things in a different way.


- Alan
@ForeverFree ,

Seems odd to me that there are some who can't seem to see such from that vantage point.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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One does not cancel out the other, does it, @RobertP?
Pat’s review says that her book is based on the Slave Narratives. Now I have not read these recollections but I have followed many threads on this site referencing them in support of one position or another. The general consensus here is it that they are unreliable. But if one is willling to cherry pick they’ve can just as well be used by the slavery wasn’t that bad group as by a writer like this one who says white children were forced to watch floggings for indoctrination. Surely you see how it works, just make the rare occurrence seem like the norm and you become a ground breaking author.
 

byron ed

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#38
White female slave owners, like male slave owners, did not think of themselves as bad, according to most of what I've read. Slave ownership indicated a higher class and status...Slave ownership was a good thing, in their minds. Slave ownership did not involve guilt or shame, it's something that elevated them...
Justification and self-delusion override innate human conscience. Mental exercises fabricated to placate the soul but not the heart. At what internal level do you suppose slaveowners or secessionists realized they were fooling themselves? At the uncomfortable level, that which they were unwilling to express.

Bottom line: Slaveowners, secessionists, and Lost Causers certainly knew that slavery was wrong at some level. They could ignore Christian principal but not many at the time could claim to be ignorant of it. But to publicly out with that is to leave one's personal comfort zone and risk the wrath of community. It's akin to polite white society saying that they aren't prejudiced, when in fact they at some level they certainly are. Justification and self-delusion.
 
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#39
Justification and self-delusion override innate human conscience. Mental exercises fabricated to placate the soul but not the heart. At what internal level do you suppose slaveowners or secessionists realized they were fooling themselves? At the uncomfortable level, that which they were unwilling to express.

Bottom line: Slaveowners, secessionists, and Lost Causers certainly knew that slavery was wrong at some level. They could ignore Christian principal but not many at the time could claim to be ignorant of it. But to publicly out with that is to leave one's personal comfort zone and risk the wrath of community. It's akin to polite white society saying that they aren't prejudiced, when in fact they at some level they certainly are. Justification and self-delusion.
This is getting us past the OP, but just this comment. Many slaveowners did believe that slavery was wrong, and said so many times. There is a... not a myth... but a widespread misunderstanding that slavery was unversally seen as "good" even in the white South.

Prior to the 1820s/19830s, slavery was widely seen as a necessary evil. Consider Thomas Jefferson's 1787 Notes on Virginia:

It is difficult to determine on the standard by which the manners of a nation may be tried, whether catholic, or particular. It is more difficult for a native to bring to that standard the manners of his own nation, familiarized to him by habit. There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal.​
This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do. If a parent could find no motive either in his philanthropy or his self-love, for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should always be a sufficient one that his child is present. But generally it is not sufficient. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities.​
The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. And with what execration should the statesman be loaded, who permitting one half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor patriae of the other. For if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other in preference to that in which he is born to live and labour for another: in which he must lock up the faculties of his nature, contribute as far as depends on his individual endeavours to the evanishment of the human race, or entail his own miserable condition on the endless generations proceeding from him.​
With the morals of the people, their industry also is destroyed. For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?​
Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest. -- But it is impossible to be temperate and to pursue this subject through the various considerations of policy, of morals, of history natural and civil.

Jefferson believed that enslavers were lazy ("of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour") and slavery was immoral and evil. Indeed so evil was slavery that a "just God" would, "by supernatural interference", call forth a "contest" between the enslaved and their enslavers. "The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest," said Jefferson. The occurrence of a civil war, in which slaves took arms against a slave labor society, seems to make Jefferson seem prescient.

In the wake of the Missouri Crisis, Walker's Appeal, the Nat Turner rebellion, and other events, pro-slavery rhetoric evolved. Now, slavery was evil, but only if applied to white people. That is, enslaving white people was evil, but enslaving negroes was OK. Some even said it was ordained by God.

Except for intellectual outliers, very very very few whites found it acceptable that their mothers, wives, or daughters could be enslaved. Slavery was not to be tolerated for Europeans. But it was OK for African Americans, who were an 'inferior race.' What was considered an evil if done to whites, was considered a positive good for black slaves. Or at least, that's what they said.

- Alan
 
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