Slavery created a unique situation for those who were bound under it; the lives of African Americans were vastly different from those of their white counterparts. This situation created the opportunity for slave women to be equal if not superior in status to slave men. While all slaves worked in the fields during the day, women were also held to certain domestic responsibilities by night which gave them a wider base of experience than the men possessed. This idea that the slave community on Southern plantations may have been either gender neutral or matriarchal is very intriguing and points to a mostly unexplored area of women’s studies. Clearly after the Civil War, slavery was no longer there to provide a foundation that necessitated these gender roles, so what changed? After emancipation, African American women no longer held the same positions of status as they had during slavery, and while the gender roles did not shift to those known by white society, the freedmen were now the ones who held more power.

Endnotes.pdf (152 kB)