In a time period when women were considered inferior, as were blacks, it was unimaginable the horrors a black woman in the south had to endure during this period. African women were slaves and subject to the many horrors that come along with being in bondage, but because they were also women, they were subject to the cruelties of men who look down on women as inferior simply because of their sex. The sexual exploitation of these females often lead to the women fathering children of their white masters. Black women were also prohibited from defending themselves against any type of abuse, including sexual, at the hands of white men. If a slave attempted to defend herself she was often subjected to further beatings from the master. The black female was forced into sexual relationships for the slave master’s pleasure and profit. By doing this it was the slave owner ways of helping his slave population grow.
The understanding of the life of a slave woman is far beyond the knowledge of you or I, unless you have actually been an enslaved woman. These literary elements depicting the passage from this story are the only
Throughout history, slaves have been treated like animals and thought of as property, not human beings. Even Oroonoko, a handsome, statuesque prince is turned into a slave because of his race, and is degraded and mistreated. To racist slave owners, the horrible treatment of Africans was acceptable because they were a different species, and no amount of education or beauty could save them. Behn shows how unjust and brutal slavery is in Oroonoko. The treatment of slaves is comparable to the treatment of the poor, as both have few rights, and both are unjustly judged and mistreated based on social status.
During the time prior to the twentieth century our world accepted slavery as a normal part of life. Aphra Behn and Phillis Wheatley, both female authors born about 100 years apart, had their own views of slavery and wrote poems and stories about the subject. These women were physically different, Aphra was a Caucasian, and Phillis was an African American, and their lives were rather different as well. Aphra was a spy and playwright, who lived the middle class life and Phillis, was a slave who was taken from her homeland, brought to America, sold into slavery, then later freed. I believe that both writers’ views were difficult to figure out, especially by just reading their works.
Oroonoko’s inspirational speech to fellow slaves clearly makes Behn’s work the very first English-language fictional work speaking against slavery. The lead character of the tale addresses his fellow slaves thus:
During this time, slaves held large economic value to slaveholders. For example, slaves usually increased the value of the farm in which they resided by either increasing production of crops or other goods or by increasing the social status of the owner. If an owner had more than
Footnote: Jesse Sage and Liora Kasten, eds, Enslaved: True Stories of Modern Day Slavery (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006), 67.
In the antebellum America, slavery expanded because of planation needs and Westward expansion. In the 19th century, owning a cotton plantation was the number one thing, economically, to do. With the spread of the cotton market, planters “forged a distinctive culture around the institution of slavery”. Slavery increased even more because of the rise of cotton plantations. Plantations were big, and owners needed a good amount of workers to keep it running. Owners could either pay workers, or buy slaves and have them work for nothing. The owners would still usually clothe and feed the slaves, but some did not. In the end, owning slaves was more economically beneficial. On top of the cotton market, sugar also bursted onto the scene. Henry Bibb
White explores the master’s sexual exploitation of their female slaves, and proves this method of oppression to be the defining factor of what sets the female slaves apart from their male counterparts. Citing former slaves White writes, “Christopher Nichols, an escaped slave living in Canada, remembered how his master laid a woman on a bench, threw her clothes over her head, and whipped her. The whipping of a thirteen-year-old Georgia slave girl also had sexual overtones. The girl was put on all fours ‘sometimes her head down, and sometimes up’ and beaten until froth ran from her mouth (33).” The girl’s forced bodily position as well as her total helplessness to stop her master’s torture blatantly reveals the forced sexual trauma many African females endured.
Slavery for many was a time of despair and anguish, it felt like hell not only by the heat of the sun, but, by the treatment many received from their owners as well. Despite written almost 100 years apart, two of the most famous and well known slave narratives that give the modern day reader just an idea of what slavery was like are, Aphra Behn’s “Oroonoko, or, The Royal Slave” and Olaudah Equiano’s “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano”. The journey of these two young men, although in many ways are similar, from a larger perspective could not be more different. For Oroonoko a somewhat established young man who comes from royalty, optimizes what it means to be a noble savage. As for a young Equiano who seems to spend most of his childhood in slavery, must find a way to overcome the hand he has been dealt and work hard to earn his freedom. Throughout both of these stories there are similarities and there are differences as well. Some of the most interesting aspects that might stand out to the reader are, the aspect of slavery and or the lack of it, suicide and how both characters go about it in their own way and points of view and how the reader is influenced by it.
Since the dawn of early civilisation and subsequent traditional gender roles, one of the most prominent issues with which society struggles is gender inequality. The Book of Negroes illustrates Aminata’s worries as she is provided only one option: to entertain men with her body. “...I wondered how I would earn enough for food, clothes and repairs for my shelter. ‘What?’ Sam said. ‘You think rebels don’t have brothels? As long as there are fighting men, there will be work for girls like Rosetta - and work for you as well.’” (Hill 312) British soldiers and American rebels both sexualised the bodies of black women to the point of encouraging the prostitution of young girls. In a similar context, a 2008 study conducted by researchers from Wesleyan
Such a dramatic switch as the one from indentured servants to slaves was not the only transformation in American slavery. Slaves underwent many integral changes as the years of servitude progressed. The slave-owner relationship directly represented how times changed for slaves while working. As they were brought over to America and were in culture shock, they were often treated like absolute dirt. The inferiority of slaves is illustrated as Kolchin states that “It was easy to look upon Africans in an instrumental manner: they were “savages” imported to work, and few planters expressed much interest in their lives, except for a lively concern with training them in that work or securing their obedience (p. 59).” As time progressed however, and less slaves were directly from Africa, the ideology towards slaves changed. Kolchin writes that “Slave owners were changing too: just as the slaves were becoming America-born, so, too, were the masters (p.59).” Slave owners started to look at slaves at as people instead of objects. This was a very monumental step in slavery. Slaves began to gain more freedoms from their masters. These freedoms included religious Sundays off, family visitations, and the ability to make money on the side. While some slaves were still met with the hardships of harsh southern slave owners beating them, as time went on, slaves became more of
The slave owner’s exploitation of the black woman’s sexuality was one of the most significant factors differentiating the experience of slavery for males and females. The white man’s claim to the slave body, male as well as female, was inherent in the concept of the Slave Trade and was tangibly realized perhaps no where more than the auction block. Captive Africans were stripped of their clothing, oiled down, and poked and prodded by potential buyers. The erotic undertones of such scenes were particularly pronounced in the case of black women. Throughout the period of slavery in America, white society believed black women to be innately lustful beings. The perception of the African woman as hyper-sexual made her both the object of white man’s abhorrence and his fantasy. Within the bonds of slavery, masters often felt it was their right to engage in sexual activity with black women. Sometimes, female slaves made advances hoping that such relationships would increase the chances that they or their children would be liberated by the master. Most of the time, slave owners took slaves by force.
During the development of the colonies and the nation as a whole, slaves were utilized in order to produce the crops and perform laborious tasks that were “below” white people. In the 1660s, there was an increased demand for tobacco products as well as indigo and rice in England (“African American Slavery in the Colonial Era, 1619-1775”). In order to fulfill the demand, there was a spike in interest in purchasing slaves. More and more slaves were needed to produce larger amounts of crops for the plantation owners.
Aphra Behn’s novel, Oroonoko, gives a very different perspective on a slave narrative. Her characters embody various characteristics not usually given to those genders and races. Imoinda’s character represents both the modern feminist, as well as the subservient and mental characteristics of the typical eighteenth-century English woman. Oroonoko becomes an embodiment of what is normally a white man’s characteristic; he is the noble, princely, and sympathetic character that is not usually attributed to black men in general throughout most novels of slavery. The complete opposite character style is given to the slavers; the English are viewed as the barbaric, cunning, brutal characters that are usually portrayed in opposite and more generous