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AIAW, Intro- Ch. 1
Transcript of AIAW, Intro- Ch. 1
What is the Thesis?
"This present study takes a look at slave women in America and argues that they were not submissive, subordinate, or prudish and that they were not expected to be so. . . . Women it will be seen had different roles from those of men and they also had a great deal in common with their African foremothers who held positions not inferior but complementary to those of men. This study also argues that mutual respect characterized relationships between the sexes. . . . Evidence presented here also suggests that slave women had a high degree of sex consciousness and that it was encouraged by the plantation work regimen, which required women and girls to work together in groups nd which made black women highly dependent on each other." (p. 22)
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman? (p. 14)
The women in this book face three major constraints, or obstacles-- what are they?
How have historians of slavery addressed the matter of slave women's history?
What are some of the problems scholars face when trying to tell the history of slave women?
What kind of documents does Deborah Gray White use in this book?
White women were expected to be passive but black women were expected to be submissive (because they were both slave and black)
Do slave women want to be treated like white women?
What are the different implications of biological and social motherhood?
Did being a wife and mother anchor slave women to the position of inferiority in slave society as it did white women in American society at large?
How did slave women maintain a sense of worth and what standard did they use to judge their own conduct?
Larger Questions to be answered
Jezebel and Mammy
Thesis of the chapter: "In antebellum America, the female slave's chattel status, sex, and race combined to create a complicated set of myths about black womanhood" (28)
- Anti-Victorian woman
- She was not motivated by her religion and morals
- She was not pious
- She was not sexually conservative or prudish
- She put sex over women’s work (housekeeping, child-rearing, and domesticity)
What is the historical basis for Jezebel?
Mammy is religious and moral
She is an older woman-- typically past childbearing years
cooks and tends to the household-- house manager
Genuinely loves the white children she raises
She has the respect of whites and slaves
She is well cared for
She embodies Victorian womanhood in a sense because she is domestic and nurturing
Why did southerners invent Mammy?
How does the myth compare with reality?