Behind the mask: another perspective on the slavewomen's oral narratives

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Virginia Tech


In the last twenty years, studies in Afro-American slavery have given special attention to the slave community and culture. They have emphasized the slaves' control over their lives, while glossing over the brutality of the institution of slavery. Slave women have been ignored until very recently, and those few historians who studied their lives have applied the same categories of inquiry used by traditional historians with a male perspective. The topic of interracial sexual relations crystallizes this problem. This issue has been left aside in most scholarly studies and, when mentioned, addressed more often than not from a male perspective. As sexual abuse, it exemplifies the harshness of slavery.

The oral slave narratives, often referred to by the same historians, are one of the few primary sources by and on slave women. Yet, historians have not used them adequately in research on slave women, primarily because of inadequate conceptual frameworks.