Women and Slavery in the French Antilles, 1635–1848
Examines the reaction of black women to slavery.
In Women and Slavery in the French Antilles, 1635–1848, Bernard Moitt argues that gender had a profound effect on the slave plantation system in the French Antilles. He details and analyzes the social condition of enslaved black women in the plantation societies of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), and French Guiana from 1635 to the abolition of slavery in the French colonial empire in 1848. Moitt examines the lives of black women in bondage, evaluates the impact that the slave experience had on them, and assesses the ways in which women reacted to and coped with slavery in the French Caribbean for over two centuries.
As males outnumbered females for most of the slavery period and monopolized virtually all of the specialized tasks, the disregard for gender in task allocation meant that females did proportionately more hard labor than did males. In addition to hard work in the fields, women were engaged in gender-specific labor and performed a host of other tasks.
Women resisted slavery in the same ways that men did, as well as in ways that gender and allocation of tasks made possible. Moitt casts slave women in dynamic roles previously ignored by historians, thus bringing them out of the shadows of the plantation world into full view, where they belong.
Bernard Moitt is Assistant Professor in the History Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Previously, he taught at the University of Toronto and at Utica College of Syracuse University. Educated in Antigua (where he was born), Canada, and the United States, he has written on aspects of francophone African and Caribbean history, with particular emphasis on gender and slavery.
Blacks in the Diaspora—Darlene Clark Hine, John McCluskey, Jr., David Barry Gaspar, general editors
256 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, index, append.
cloth 0-253-33913-8 $44.95 L / £34.00
paper 0-253-21452-1 $19.95 s / 15.50
1. Black Women and the Early Development of the French Antilles
2. The Atlantic Slave Trade, Black Women, and the Development of the Plantations
3. Women and Labor: Slave Labor
4. Women and Labor: Domestic Labor
5. Marriage, Family Life, Reproduction, and Assault
6. Discipline and Physical Abuse: Slave Women and the Law
7. Women and Resistance
8. Women and Manumission
Slavery lasted a little over two centuries in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), and French Guiana, the former French Caribbean colonies. This study of enslaved women and gender treats all four territories from 1635 to 1848. Moitt (history, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.) synthesized materials from many fragmentary primary and secondary sources. His topical range includes domestic, field, and other forms of labor; reproduction; family life; slave women and the law; discipline and sexual exploitation; manumission; and forms of resistance. Although he treats the four territories as a unit, they were and are different in important respects. Furthermore, labor, economic, and productive systems did not remain unchanged over two centuries. French Guiana, for example, was a distinctly different place from Saint-Domingue, and in all Caribbean territories the 17th century, which saw the beginning of plantation systems, was different from the early 19th century, when they were in decline. Moitt conflates time and place in order to generalize. The scattered and difficult nature of his sources makes that procedure understandable, especially since studies of gender in slavery in the individual territories are almost nonexistent. Perhaps this study heralds more periodized and focused research. For Caribbean and slavery collections, upper-division undergraduate and above. —R. Berlean~Schiller