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Her characterization of her heritage stands out because those states, like others across the South, had stringent laws and penalties against interracial marriage. In fact, throughout the colonial and antebellum eras, interracial marriage would have been the exception — even though interracial sex was the rule. After much debate, the consensus amongst scholars of American slavery is that sex within the master-slave relationship brings into question issues of power, agency and choice that problematize notions of love and romance even in cases where there appears to be mutual consent.
Stevenson highlighted the complexity of interracial sexual liaisons in American slave society with regard to consent. Not long after Mary began working for Bell, the two developed a sexual relationship, which resulted in two children. Jefferson later, at her request, sold Mary and the children to Bell, though her four older children remained the property of Jefferson.
Shoe Boots was a Cherokee warrior who had married, according to Cherokee custom, a young white female who was captured during an Indian raid in Kentucky in Also during this time Shoe Boots purchased a young enslaved girl named Doll in South Carolina; she was placed under the supervision of his white wife as a domestic servant. When his wife and children abandoned him after an arranged family visit to Kentucky inShoe Boots took year-old Doll as his concubine.
And, while much attention has focused on sexual relations between slaveowners and enslaved women, enslaved men could also be coerced or sexually exploited. Such depositions included stories of sexual liaisons between enslaved men and their mistresses. For certain, interracial sexual liaisons between the slave-owning class and the enslaved is a well-established reality of American history. But caution must be used when master slave girl relationships that appear consensual using the language of love and romance.
Complex dynamics of power are at work when we talk about sex within slavery, and the enslaved negotiated those forces on a daily basis in order to survive. Arica L. Coleman is a scholar of U. at letters time. By Arica L. Get our History Newsletter.
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Master's Girl: What it's like inside a master and slave relationship