For over two centuries, the topic of slave breeding has occupied a controversial place in the master narrative of American history. From nineteenth-century abolitionists to twentieth-century filmmakers and artists, Americans have debated whether slave owners deliberately and coercively manipulated the sexual practices and marital status of enslaved African Americans to reproduce new generations of slaves for profit. In this bold and provocative book, historian Gregory Smithers investigates how African Americans have narrated, remembered, and represented slave-breeding practices. He argues that while social and economic historians have downplayed the significance of slave breeding, African Americans have never been able to forget the trauma of violence and sexual coercion associated with the plantation South. By placing African American histories and memories of slave breeding within the larger context of America's history of racial and gender discrimination, Smithers reveals how sexual exploitation was both experienced and remembered by African Americans to inform how black Americans understand the political, social, and cultural nature of life in the United States. This fascinating, provocative work sheds much-needed light on African American cultural memories, the perceptions of fragile black families, and the long history of racially motivated violence against men, women, and children of colour.
Gregory D. Smithers teaches American history at the Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the author of Science, Sexuality, and Race in the United States and Australia, 1780s-1890s and coauthor of The Preacher and the Politician: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama and Race in America.