View Full Version : Can it happen?

Norma Jean
05-18-2008, 06:03 AM
Back in the days of slavery, if a rich and prominent white man became romantically involved with an African Americanslave and if the relationship was revealed, what would happen to the man and the slave? Would they go so far as to kill the man and the slave both? what would be the consequences of their actions?

05-18-2008, 06:15 AM
From what I've read, this was not uncommon, but the relationship was never equal (it couldn't be), however well the woman was treated. Therefore, if the relationship was revealed (and I daresay most people of the time would consider it tactless to mention even if they knew), there would probably be few repercussions for either of them. A much more pressing danger would be the woman's place as lover being usurped by a younger or more attractive slave woman.

If you mean that the man and woman are actually in love, keep in mind that they still have an unequal relationship. The man still legally owns the woman; therefore, legally he can do anything he wants with her, including fall in love with her.

Icky subject, but I hope this helps a little. I'm sure other people can point you to some books that might give you more information.

05-18-2008, 06:18 AM
Not at all. Many white guys at least raped their slave woman. A relationship would have been denied as pish-tosh. They would have downed some mint juilps all the way around and had a laugh. Slaves were at the same level as livestock. There was much to say about getting free baby slaves to take over worn out old slaves eventually. Breeding programs were in place, to create an unlimited supply. The slave owners really did not care whose seed created the baby. They certainly did not consider the end result kindred or even "human." You have to see it through their minds. These people were not considered intelligent humans. They were wild-life from Africa with moderate intelligence, & limited understanding, so it would be very unusual that a rich white man would become romantically involved with a slave. Jefferson supposedly had a relationship with Sally Hemmings, and nothing came of it other than many generations down the line there were genetic similarities with certain members of the family.

05-18-2008, 06:40 AM
Depends on the status of the man in question. If he is in a prominent position, owns the slave, then he can do whatever he wants. However, if he has a wife, I can imagine she would be free to punish the slave as she fits with no consequence like Their Eyes Were Watching God. Even if she was a stranger who was infatuated with the "offender" she could punish the slave with no penalty other than paying the paying the owner the price for destroying his property. Now, in the early post slavery era the white male might be punished too, expecially in the South.

05-18-2008, 06:50 AM
Back in the days of slavery, if a rich and prominent white man became romantically involved with an African Americanslave and if the relationship was revealed, what would happen to the man and the slave?
His own slave or someone else's? His own - he could do what he liked. Some people might disapprove of his actions but they wouldn't be able to stop him. Although it depends precisely what you mean by romantic - is he married to a white woman? Is he planning to marry the slave? Is it sex or 'true love'?

Would they go so far as to kill the man and the slave both?
Who do you imagine is the 'they' in your sentence? I don't think there would have been any legal grounds for doing so. Might there have been people taking 'justice' into their own hands - possibly. In which case it's by far more likely that the slave would suffer all the consequences, or at least the larger part of the consequences. I think in general that white men were considered to be entitled to do what they wanted with their slave women.

If it were someone else's slave, of course, then the owner might have some cause for complaint.

what would be the consequences of their actions?
It depends. There were a number of slaves who bore children to their masters and were more or less well provided for. But a wife who wasn't prepared to turn a blind eye could probably have ruined both the slave's life and her husband's.

Tsu Dho Nimh
05-18-2008, 06:51 PM
Back in the days of slavery, if a rich and prominent white man became romantically involved with an African Americanslave and if the relationship was revealed, what would happen to the man and the slave? Would they go so far as to kill the man and the slave both? what would be the consequences of their actions?

Consequences? None for either one of them.

It was socially and legally acceptable to have sexual liasons with slaves, and often considered a way to keep the young men from seducing the white girls and disgracing them. It was socially and legally permissible to sire children on your slaves and then keep or sell them as slaves.

And it was legally and socially OK for the man's wife to either ignore it or if it was a slave owned by the family, to make her live living hell. Many women ignored it.

ADDING ... try "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself by Harriet Ann Jacobs"
Diary of a slave girl, in love with a white man.

05-18-2008, 08:27 PM
you may want to look up Octaroon.

05-18-2008, 08:54 PM
Indentured service in the North sounds softer but the same owner/worker rules or lack still applied. A person was 'sold' for a number of years either to pay off a small crime or to work off debt. However the owner added cost of transportation if the person came from England, food, board, clothing, etc so the debt never really went down until the worker was too old or ill to be useful. If a woman came with a child, supposedly the child was not 'property' however the additional cost of shelter, food, etc, added to the payback and the child could be substituted to carry on the debt payment if the parent died. Indentured women were thought of as having loose morals and rape was common, redress was rare. Families were broken apart for expidiency's sake.

05-18-2008, 09:32 PM
Remember that most women of that day and time probably would not have questioned their husbands actions with slaves or anything else for that matter. Women (wives) were pretty much considered chattel during that time too - couldn't vote, many females weren't even taught to read and write, arranged marriages, dowries required, etc.

Many women died in childbirth during those days and many found themselves pregnant year after year. While a wife may have opportunity to be mean to the slave, she may have welcomed any diversion to her husbands attentions. Also, his word would have been law - if he told her to leave a slave alone, she probably would do what he said.

05-18-2008, 09:38 PM
I assume we're talking about the antebellum U.S.? I agree with others who say there's not going to be a huge reaction, assuming the man handles it well, with bland denials, showing proper public attention to his wife, etc.

Of course if he fanned the flames by publicly acknowledging his true love, swearing to do the right thing and free her and marry her, it would be a political and social disaster.

If by "they" you mean a local mob, it's easier to find examples of violence against people who upset the status quo, such as immigrants or those of a different religion or those who'd give power to slaves by advocating abolition, education, etc. I can't really see a mob getting stirred up in this case, especially since it's a white male and a black female.

An example of the fairly casual acceptance of this is in Fanny Kemble's Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation, first published in 1863, about her experiences in the 1830s as an English anti-slavery wife of a southern U.S. plantation owner.

At one point she asks a mulatto slave who his parents are. He names his slave mother, then...

"Who is your father?"

My sprightly young friend, however, answered, without an instant's pause: "Mr. K [the white overseer]...

"Did your mother tell you so?"

"No, missis, me ashamed to ask her; [a respected white neighbor's] children told me so, and I 'spect they know it."

For a primary source written from a white person's view, I'd highly recommend the whole book as one of the better examples of a less-prejudiced view of a plantation household, written by someone who was there. Yes, she was anti-slavery and it certainly shows, but it's in contrast to both the "moonlight and magnolias" reminiscences about nothing but loyal and happy slaves, as well as the writings of abolitionists who portrayed the opposite view without as much first-hand access.

05-26-2008, 07:33 AM
It depends on where the story is set also. For example, I think someone mentioned this briefly earlier, but New Orleans actually provided special status to octaroons (one eighth white) and quadroons (one quarter white). They were children of illicit relationships, but highly celebrated for their beauty. There were fancy balls held for them each season, similar to debutante balls. They weren't permitted to marry white men, but they were regularly kept as privileged mistresses by both married and unmarried men. Typically the man would rent a large French Quarter apartment for her, provide beautiful and expensive clothing and give her a sizable monthly allowance. The arrangement worked pretty well unless she began to desire marriage (look up the story of Julie, the ghost of the Bottom of the Cup Tearoom for a very sad story). Marriage was absolutely forbidden (by social norms, not law), and while neither would be arrested or killed, the man would lose his social standing and most likely his business. New Orleans slave laws were extremely progressive, though, so this probably wouldn't apply anywhere else.