In studying the history of slavery in the United States, scholars neglect a large spectrum of the experience so many African slaves had to suffer through for hundreds of years. An all-too-common temptation for historians is to break down slavery’s various faces (and other…
e perspective that identifies the problems of one slighted minority with the problems faced by another: particularly, the feminist perspective on a slave trade that affected women and men in very different ways. In her book, Schwalm argues for gender as an important critical framework for reading the history of slavery. To prove her case, Schwalm looks at specific instances of woman slavery—situations such as that in Low Country South Carolina. All in all, Schwalm’s account provides a much-needed refocus on the role of women in historical accounts of African-American struggle before, during, and after the Civil War.
In essence, Schwalm’s work revolves around the experiences of women on large rice plantations to demonstrate gender’s effect on the experiences of slaves and freed-slaves in general. Utilizing a feminist lens to read the history of slavery in the United States, Schwalm reveals the role of women not as passive objects in the slave trade, slave labor, or the fight for freedom. To the contrary, Schwalm claims women were brought into the fold of political fighting for the future of African-Americans in the United States. These themes fall between three sections of the book: a first part which describes the lives of woman slaves in South Carolina; a second part which analyzes the role of women in the war for freedom as conditions changed because of the fighting; and a third part which looks at how the lives of women changed because of freedom, and how they asserted themselves in the vacuum created by a new way of life.
According to her official website, the author is a professor of nineteenth-century American social history, which encompasses the Civil War, slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, and African-American history. Her emphasis is on women’s history, so it is not a surprise that Schwalm would write a book combining the perspectives of slaves and women in the fight for physical and political freedom in the context of the Civil War. She ...
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