African Americans resisted the practice of slavery and the trade of slavery from its inception in the United Stated in the early 1600s to its end in the middle 1800s. They resisted it in the fields and in the big house; they resisted by organized rebellions; and they resisted by direct, spontaneous acts of courage. For their freedom slaves killed and were killed. They ran away, and their masters ran after them. They fought and died, but they also survived. The conditions of slaves that survived varied. How well were they treated depended on their owner and the type of work they did. However, in my paper I will discuss the life of slave women and their relationships with their white masters. Since the beginning of slavery gender and social relations shaped the lives of slave in such a way that slave women experiences were different from slave men.
Did gender make a difference in how slave women were treated by their masters? Yes. Gender was like a major force in shaping slave society. Slave men experiences were different from slave women, who were exploited both for reproductive and productive reasons. Throughout the long years of slavery women were abused by their master, physically, sexually, and mentally, while men were abused physically and mentally. Not only did women suffer much harsher physical abuse, they were also sexually abused. Although, not suggesting that black men suffered less than black women under the oppression of slavery, only that gender considerations played a major part in shaping the task assignments given to blacks by their owners and in shaping the way in which blacks build relationships among themselves” (Jones 20).
The lives of female slaves were a little more trying than that of a male slave. This is partly due to the sexual harassment, which slave women must endure. Sexual relationships between masters and female slaves were very common on the plantation during the eighteenth century. These forced sexual relationships often began with cruel beatings before the slave would submit to savage rapes. 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).