But fewer probably know that it was his wife, Martha , who dramatically increased the enslaved population there. When they wed in , George may have owned around 18 people. Martha, one of the richest women in Virginia, owned The high number of people Martha Washington owned is unusual, but the fact that she owned them is not.
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Slavery constituted the principal backdrop against which whites and blacks encountered one another for over two hundred years, from the s to the s. The overwhelming majority of slave owners were white, and the overwhelming majority of slaves black. There was probably more black-white sex during this period than at any other time thus far in American history. Most of it was unwanted sex, stemming from white males' exploitation of black women-the subject of many pages to come.? But what about mutually desired sex or what I refer to as sexual intimacy? Some commentators insist that there can have been no such thing as sexual intimacy between a black enslaved woman and any white man-a slave owner or overseer or even a mere stranger-because mutually desired sex requires choice, a power denied to slaves by bondage.
Her characterization of her heritage stands out because those states, like others across the South, had stringent laws and penalties against interracial marriage. In fact, throughout the colonial and antebellum eras, interracial marriage would have been the exception — even though interracial sex was the rule. After much debate, the consensus amongst scholars of American slavery is that sex within the master-slave relationship brings into question issues of power, agency and choice that problematize notions of love and romance even in cases where there appears to be mutual consent. Stevenson highlighted the complexity of interracial sexual liaisons in American slave society with regard to consent.
There is ample evidence of sexual relations, from rapes to what appear to be relatively symbiotic romantic partnerships, between white slave masters and black women in the Antebellum South. Much rarer were sexual relations between white women and black slave men, yet they too occurred. Using an intersectional socio-historical analysis, this paper explores the factors that contributed or may have contributed to the incidence of sexual encounters between elite white women and slave men, the power dynamics embedded in them, and their implications in terms of sexual consent. The paper demonstrates how upper-class white women who engaged in these relationships used sex as an instrument of power, simultaneously perpetuating both white supremacy and patriarchy. The lash and the foul talk of her master and his sons are her teachers.