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Title: Sexual violence in the slaveholding regimes of Louisiana and Texas : patterns of abuse in Black testimony
Author: Livesey, Andrea
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 1802
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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This study is concerned with the sexual abuse of enslaved women and girls by white men in the antebellum South. Interviews conducted by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s are studied alongside nineteenth-century narratives of the formerly enslaved in order to make calculations of the scale of abuse in the South, but also to discover which conditions, social spaces and situations were, and possibly still are, most conducive to the sexual abuse of women and girls. This thesis is separated into two parts. Part One establishes a methodology for working with testimony of the formerly enslaved and determines the scale of sexual abuse using all available 1930s interviews with people who had lived in Louisiana and Texas under slavery. This systematic quantitative analysis is a key foundation from which to interpret the testimony of abuse that is explored according to different forms of sexual violence in Part Two. It is argued that abuse was endemic in the South, and occurred on a scale that was much higher than has been argued in previous studies. Enslaved people could experience a range of white male sexually abusive behaviours: rape, sexual slavery and forced breeding receive particular attention in this study due to the frequency with which they were mentioned by the formerly enslaved. These abuses are conceptualised as existing on a continuum of sexual violence that, alongside other less frequently mentioned practices, pervaded the lives of all enslaved people. Common features existed along the continuum. Abuse was intergenerational in nature for both the abusers and the abused. Light-skinned enslaved children born of rape were far more likely to become victims of abuse themselves and young enslaved girls were prematurely sexualised. Sexual abuse was brought into the white domestic space through the institution of sexual slavery, white children were thus unconsciously schooled in the abusive sexual mores of southern society from an early age. Abuse was quite open among white male family members. Other institutions existed that normalised and legitimised abuse, such as the fancy-girl trade and sexual interference through forced breeding practices that included eugenic manipulation and the use of ‘studs’. Despite this, enslaved women showed remarkable levels of emotional survival and initial reflections are made on the ways in which women could resist and cope with sexual abuse. Testimony suggests that abuse was discussed amongst the black community, support was rarely denied to victims, and there was no stigma was attached to children born of rape. With recent revelations on the scale of the institutionalised sexual abuse of women and children, as well as vast modern sex-trafficking networks, there are special opportunities presented through the current cultural climate in order to understand the southern experience. The South is reframed as a ‘culture of abuse’ where sexual violence against enslaved people was naturalised and culturally reproduced.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: E11 America (General) ; E151 United States (General) ; F001 United States local history ; HA Statistics ; HC Economic History and Conditions ; HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform ; HQ The family. Marriage. Woman ; HT Communities. Classes. Races