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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The Santa Fe New Mexican has a review that says the book is important, but that it may overstate its case:

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/pasatiempo/books/they-were-her-property-white-women-as-slave-owners-in/article_a3c4d2fa-2058-50b0-9ffc-d00c221b1782.html

From the review:

Topics now at the forefront of the American consciousness, such as white privilege, minority invisibility, and affirmative action, point to a cultural trend of becoming awakened to the residual side effects of systemic racism — that is, the idea of seeking accountability without relying on preconceptions and stereotypes. In the case of They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, Stephanie Jones-Rogers holds that women have always been fully capable of committing acts of ruthlessness and cruelty related to slavery, and that this difficult fact ought to be included in any serious discussion about the foundations of the American institution. The role of white women in relation to the barbarity of the American slave economy has long been sidestepped, Jones-Rogers contends.
 

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unionblue

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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.
@RobertP ,

What I see are justifications for a personal opinion, just like mine.
 

Pat Young

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Here is the conclusion of the New Mexican review:

Scholars often overstate or repeat a thesis many times to make their point. This book does exactly that. And Jones-Rogers expects historians to accept her dramatically reshaped understanding of white women’s economic relationship to slavery by making it difficult to find excuses for their bad behavior and complicity. They Were Her Property is dense, it’s argumentative, and it skirts the issue of alternative ways for women to fit into a broken, problematic culture. It is least convincing when claiming that white women, from the Civil War era through Reconstruction, downplayed their own direct participation in slavery, obscured their financial motivations, and defended their actions. But these problematic elements are outweighed by Jones-Rogers’ use of innovative research to cast light on an area that may forever change how American history is discussed.
 

Pat Young

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The book is reviewed in The American Scholar:

https://theamericanscholar.org/a-womans-place/#.XJRDaShKjIU

From the review:

In her explosive new book, They Were Her Property, historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers corrects the record about white women slave owners in the American South, proving that slavery and its associated markets were far from the sole domain of men. Since women often inherited more slaves than land, they were deeply invested, in a social, moral, and an economic sense, in the trade of enslaved people. A white woman could cordon off her property from her husband’s in a prenuptial agreement, preserve her right to manage her own property, and fend off her husband’s debtors in court. She also ensured the continued reproduction of the institution by engaging in the market for wet-nurses, who were often coerced into serendipitous pregnancies through sexual violence, and whose breast-milk was then used to nurse white children. How does the power of women slave owners change our understanding of the relationship among gender, slavery, and capitalism in the 19th century? Why were these relationships obscured for so long?
 
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