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Research by Black Female Professor Reveals Startling Truth That White Women Made Up 40% of Slaveowners

Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, associate profesor of history at UC Berkely. (Photo: University of California Berkley)


A set of data uncovered by University of California-Berkeley professor reveals southern white women played a heavier role in the enslavement of Africans than previously thought.


Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, an associate professor of history at the university, combed through data from the 1850 and 1860 census and revealed that white women made up around 40% of s*laveowners.

The findings helped Jones-Rogers compile her book, “They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South.”

On her department page, Jones-Rogers describes the February 2019 release as “a regional study that draws upon formerly enslaved people’s testimony to dramatically reshape current understandings of white women’s economic relationships to s*lavery.”

In the book, Jones-Rogers explained that white women’s involvement in s*lavery comes from family, as their s*lave-owning parents “typically gave their daughters more ens*laved people than land.”

“What this means is that their very identities as white southern women are tied to the actual or the possible ownership of other people,” she said according to History.com.

Her book also notes that owning ens*laved Africans served as white women’s primary source of wealth. Plus, owning a large number of ens*laved people reportedly made women better marriage material. Once wed, white women were said to have fought and frequently won the right to


continue to have ownership over their ens*laved Africans, not handing over ownership to their husbands.

“For them, s*lavery was their freedom,” Jones-Rogers states in her book.

After Martha Washington married President George Washington in Virginia in 1759, George is said to have possibly owned around 18 people. But his wife, one of the richest women in the state, owned 84 and dramatically increased the local s*lave population.

Arguing that white women are trained to be engaged in the slavery industry at a young age, Jones-Rogers stated, “their exposure to the s*lave market is not something that begins in adulthood—it begins in their homes when they’re little girls, sometimes infants, when they’re given ens*laved people as gifts.”

Jones-Rogers demonstrates that in her book by including interviews with formerly ens*laved people conducted in the 1930s through the New Deal agency, Works Progress Administration. One formerly ens*laved woman said children would ruthlessly beat ens*laved people.

“It didn’t matter whether the child was large or small. They always b*eat you ’til the b*lood ran down,” she said.

A Slave Auction, United States Of America, US, USA, 1870s Engraving. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Once they came of age, white women also reportedly got involved in the s*lave market. Aside from b*eating s*laves once they owned them, white women bought, sold and sought out their return. The notion flips the previous belief of scholars that white women abstained from engaging in such activity, as it was deemed improper.

As the women got pregnant and had their own families, they’d reportedly o*rchestrate s*exual as*saults between ens*laved people so that enslaved Black women could be available to nurse white women’s children. This in addition to tearing ens*laved women’s babies away from them so they could nurse white women’s children and avoid becoming, as Jones-Rogers stated one white woman s*laveowner said, “a s*lave” to her children. Advertisements for “wet nurses” were plastered throughout newspapers, reportedly creating a massive market for ens*laved Black women who recently delivered children.

“There were instances in which formerly ens*laved people did, in fact, say that their mistresses either sa*nctioned acts of se*xual v*iolence against them that were perpetrated at the hands of white men; or that they or*chestrated instances of se*xual vio*lence between two ensl*aved people that they owned, in hopes of producing children from those acts of s*xual vi*olence,” Jones-Rogers said.


White women were also said to have gone through great lengths to maintain ownership of their s*laves as the Civil War waged on. History.com reports that one woman, Martha Gibbs f*orced ens*laved Africans to Texas and th*reatened them with a g*un to continue working for her through 1866, the year after s*lavery was officially a*bolished.

Even after the institution was outlawed, southern white women reportedly doled out work contracts that e*xploited Black people to work under sl*ave-like conditions. Some described it as a benign industry — as Margaret Mitchell did in “Gone With the Wind.” That same idea has carried out through to textbooks discussing ens*lavement today. As recently as April 2018, it was exposed that students in Texas had been using a textbook that stated not all ensl*aved Africans were unhappy.

Still, Jones-Rogers argues in her book that white women’s “ideological and sentimental connections” to s*lavery weren’t the only thing that made them defend the practics. She remarked that women who were around during ens*lavement would have done the same.

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