The Definition of Family in Slave Communities

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The definition of family has changes dramatically over the course of history, especially from culture to culture. It is quite interesting to research the definition of family within slave communities because the slave definition of family not only changed from plantation to plantation, but also slave to slave. Upon reading the secondary sources, “The Shaping of the Afro-American Family,” by Steven Mintz, & Susan Kellogg, "Marriage in Slavery," by Brenda Stevenson, and “Motherhood in Slavery” by Stephanie Shaw, and the primary sources WPA Interviews of former slaves conducted in the 1930s. Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938, throughout all of these readings there seemed to be some definite themes. One is the roles between mother and father and their children, second is the role slave owners and their families, and another is the fact that for many slaves the definition of family was broad based. It seems that these accounts from the primary sources did not really capture the brutality that many history books seem to illustrate; instead many of the slaves had complete faithfulness for their owners. It seems really interesting that there would be this sort of “Stockholm” quality to the slaves. It seems slave life was very isolating, which created this dedication, which preserved what really happened on some plantation in the United States.

Motherhood is something that many slaves dealt with mainly when slaves were children having some type of relationship with their mother. Women had to be dedicated to their children because there seemed to be a survival of the fittest mentality. Mothers usually took on the role of caring for their children and also doing their jobs as slaves and u...

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...hnson, Benjamin. The Library of Congress. Born in Slavery: The Slavery Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938. Georgia Narratives. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html.

King, Charlie. The Library of Congress. Born in Slavery: The Slavery Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938. Georgia Narratives. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html.

Mintz, Steven & Susan Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American

Family Life, (The Free Press, 1988)

Shaw, Stephanie, Motherhood in Slavery. (New York Oxford University Press, 1991)

Slaughter, Richard. The Library of Congress. Born in Slavery: The Slavery Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936-1938. Virginia Narratives. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html.

Stevenson, Brenda, Marriage in Slavery. (New York: Routledge, 1994)
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