Ar’n’t I A Woman?
Ar’n’t I a Woman? Written by, Deborah Gray White shows the trials and hardships that African American Women faced during the years of the infamous plantations up to the civil war. In this book White describes how the images of “Jezebel” and the “Mammy” and how they were the most vulnerable group with the least amount of formal power in Antebellum America. She compares the life of men and women in the slave society, and how truly different they were. The roles of women are shown through the slaves’ life cycle, family life, slave society networks, and the civil war. Each of these various aspects of life are discussed very vividly in the book, and serve purpose in showing how African American women were treated so unjustly not only because of their skin color but the fact that they were women, therefore they were the most discriminated against in Antebellum America. Though they were discriminated against their nature proved them to not be submissive and subordinate in all aspects.
The terms “Jezebel” and “Mammy” refer to African American women in this time period. There is a stark difference between the two and they were treated very differently. This is apparent in that the “Jezebel” refers to “the sexual exploitation of black women, and the mulatto population” (61). Meaning that these were the women that were taken advantage of, and also considered a slut at heart. These women would be anyone essentially below the Mammy; they were field hands, and house servants as well as anything in between. This is not to say that both types of women were taken advantage of, they were, but in different ways. The “Mammy” is more of a deeply religious type, who was entrusted with the plantation owners’ children, and they were basically the highest maids who knew all and could do anything better than anyone else. There were others below her who answered to her in all matters (47). They would confide in her and listen to her, she was basically part of the family, so much that even the master and mistresses got attached to her along with the children.
The life cycle of a slave woman was wrought with many changes and problems along the way. As children growing up they were rarely in contact with the adult slaves, but rather with the elder slaves who looked after them. As children to the age of sixteen they did various chores and jobs along with the boys. They would often do the same type of chores and games they would do later on in life when they were no longer considered children. They would complete tasks such as looking after the babies, getting the mail, giving water to thirsty field hands, and tending to the livestock (92). Some would also hunt rabbits, coons, and turtles with each other. Between the ages of twelve and sixteen however, they would start being more segregated by the girls getting skirts and dresses while the...