When somebody reflects the hardships of slavery, they typically think solely of the treatment towards African Americans. What most people are not aware of is how women were treated, whether they were of color or not. In Harriet Jacobs book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, she explains “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own.” The cruel treatment towards female slaves and the struggles held by Southern women during the Civil war are disregarded by the majority of people today, even though it is a significant part of American history and still affects society. Slaveholders would often rape and impregnate their slave women, and then never let the women care for their mixed children.
Not only that, Gwin’s book discusses the idea that for most of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, a black woman usually got subjected to displacement of sexual and mental frustration of white women. Gwin discusses how these black women, because of the sexual and mental abuse, felt looked down on more by whites and therefore reduced to even a lower level than that of white women‘s status of being a woman. . 	A southern white female slave owner only saw black women as another slave, or worse. White women needed to do this in order to keep themselves from feeling that they were of higher status than every one else except for their husband.
As the men fought the war the women who were now dependent upon themselves more than ever had to take on the role of the father. The Mammy figure now stood up for herself and would often times leave the white family, the family they left would often have feelings of remorse for their tremendous loss. Women were standing up for themselves and where now the maker of their own destiny, but with that still came the harsh reality that they would be still the most vulnerable group in antebellum America. Many single African American women were faced with poverty and had a really hard time dealing with the war and depending on themselves. Deborah Gray White’s view of slave women shows us that their role was truly unique, they faced the harsh reality that they were not only women or African American, they were both, so therefore their experience was one of a kind and they lived through it, triumphed, and finally won their freedom.
Out of fear of pain or death, female slaves had no other alternative but to obey their masters. According to Lyerly, “As many historians of slavery have noted, slave women lived not only with slavery’s routine restraints upon their will; they also had to fight for control over their bodies. Victims of sexual abuse by whites, slave women were often subject to the will of others in the most intimate ways” (209).
Circumstances prevented her to keep her much cherished virtue and caused a conflict within herself. For women of that time expectations resided in four areas: obedience, purity, domesticity and religiosity. However the conditions that female slaves lived in were quite opposed to these virtues and standards set by society. Females slaves were denied any of these virtues resulting in the taking of their identities; their sense of womanhood. This was another way in which slavery eliminated the values of slaves.
Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl A recurring theme in, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, is Harriet Jacobs's reflections on what slavery meant to her as well as all women in bondage. Continuously, Jacobs expresses her deep hatred of slavery, and all of its implications. She dreads such an institution so much that she sometimes regards death as a better alternative than a life in bondage. For Harriet, slavery was different than many African Americans. She did not spend her life harvesting cotton on a large plantation.
Harriet Jacobs in many occasions had to learn there was segregation of African-Americans and White-Americans. “I found the same manifestations of that cruel prejudice, which so discourages the feelings, and repressed the energies of the colored people”(144). For African-American to live in the free states did not mean that were equal to White-Americans, African-Americans were not allowed to share the same public spaces as white people, cabins and restaurants. The Fugitive slave law was a danger for Jacobs and many other people in her situation, she still was a slave in the south and feared the persecution of kidnappers who would take her to the south. Jacobs often would find herself rushing and walking through the back streets whenever she had to do an errand (157).
Deborah White configures the preeminent perception that Southern white women had of colored slave women. The initial impression was that all black women slaves were sexual deviants that were not fully equipped to fulfill their roles as slaves as they imposed a sort of “dangerous” sexual pressure in the community. The following vison of the common slave woman was that of a motherly nature in the way that the women were subject to have children for the sole purpose of renewing the source for slaves. No matter the outlook, it is clear that the slave women of the south were being forced to be flexible with their roles in order to please the slave
African Americans were always seen as the failures, and treated harshly because the color of their skin. They didn't have any voting privileges or equality compared to that of Caucasians. Desiree’s Baby depicts how racial discrimination can control ones way of living even in intimate relationships. Race and birth history is a strong theme throughout. Desiree was adopted into a high socioeconomic status.
Once caught in the grips of a master’s desire it would have been next to impossible to escape. In terms of actual escape from a plantation most women slaves had no reason to travel and consequentially had no knowledge of the land. Women slaves had the most unfortunate of situations; there were no laws that would protect them against rape or any injustices. Often the slave that became the object of the master’s desires would also become a victim of the mistress of the household. Jealousy played a detrimental role in the dynamic the enslaved women were placed within.