Role of Women in the System of American Slavery

Thursday January 6, 2022

The American slavery period is considered as one of the times that people underwent the worst unforgettable experiences. Most slaves were treated brutally, with masters determining their fates as they deemed fit. Many authors have presented varied accounts of what transpired during this period, and the two notable ones include Jacobs and Branch. The role of women in the system of American slavery is shown as varied between enslaved and the enslavers. While the role of enslaved was to be used as tools for amusement by their owners who included the masters and the mistresses as per Jacobs’ account, the enslaver women showed compassion, understanding, and a great demonstration of mercy towards the enslaved women by trying to set them free as presented by Branch. In her account, Jacobs provides a testimony of the events that unfolded during her time in slavery. From one dimension, she depicts the fathers of African American women as being ruthless, uncaring, and quite cruel to their state of being, by remaining willing and proud to sell them given a chance. After being sold, the author further notes that the masters would harass them sexually and make them sire children for them, who were eventually regarded as properties belonging to the masters. The only instance of mercy shown to enslaved women was empty promises of rescue from the pains that they underwent while trying to please slave mistresses, which eventually turned out to remain unfulfilled. This account indicates quite clearly that enslaved women were used as tools for the amusement of slavemasters and mistresses. Furthermore, the promises of rescue further reveal that even though the masters acted compassionately by offering rescue plans, the eventual result is that those promises were simply baits to have enslaved women accept them to sire children for the masters. From her account, Branch narrates how they had experienced nostalgic relationships with Negro slaves. While her family had owned slaves for quite an extended period, she depicts the women owners, who included her grandmother and her mother, as being highly compassionate to slaves. Women enslavers showed great mercy by treating slaves kindly, allowing them to sing and dance and entertain owners, which was a favor. In so doing, slaves found it quite exciting to the extent that they often sang and went wild when beating “tambourines over their heads” (Branch 2). In the same regard, the author further notes that it is only the masters who had the final say on what slaves could do in various events such as the one dedicated to singing and pleasing enslavers. However, the author indicates that women enslavers played a massive role in caring for slaves and wishing to set enslaved women free. There are two notable differences between the two accounts and only one similarity. The first difference is that while the role of enslaved women as given in Jacobs’ account was merely for use as tools of amusement, Branch indicates that slaves were vital to owner families in helping them raise and nurse their children. Another difference is that while Jacobs indicates that enslaved women had no voice or choice of the lives that they wanted, Branch designates that such women were treated fairly and eventually given freedoms, which they turned down and decided to live with their owners. In this regard, Jacobs argues that enslaved women never ended up being free even after escaping, because the masters would still hunt them, and return them to dens filled with skeletons, where these women would eventually undergo inhumane treatment. Variedly, Branch gives the example of the woman who raised and nursed her father as one slave who was given freedom, and instead of accepting to go and live a free life, she opted to stay with the owner. A single similarity noted is that the role of women during these times was that they had no choice in either refusing to be slaves or rejecting slaves given to them. To augment her claim, Branch up quotes the moment she became a slave owner when she was not able to refuse an offer of about four hundred slaves presented to her as her own by her family. Conclusively, it is difficult from these two texts to illustrate clearly the roles of enslaved and enslaver women. However, after careful comparison, it becomes vivid that one similarity stands out; both of these women had no say in either accepting to become slaves or to refuse to accept slaves. Differentially, the two authors present different accounts. While Jacobs shows that enslaved women were simply tools for use by owners such as masters and mistresses, Branch reveals that enslaver women were very compassionate to slaves and desired to have them set free. Secondly, while Jacobs depicts enslaved women as being owned forever and upon trying to escape, most were hunted and brought back to more inhumane treatment. Branch narrates that enslaver women tried to care as much as possible and even considered setting enslaved women free, an offer that the latter often refused to accept.

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