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Enslaved Women in America

From Colonial Times to Emancipation

Emily West

More than a century after Emancipation, no comprehensive overview of the history of the female American slave exists. In this book, historian Emily West offers the first comprehensive overview of the lives of enslaved women in America by placing their stories within the broader context of slavery in this country from the colonial era through to the end of the Civil War. She compares the lives of enslaved women with the lives of enslaved men from the same period, and with the white men and women who unjustly held them in bondage. West’s thorough research and eye for detail construct a narrative of the enslaved woman’s life, giving voice to and revealing the significance of a singularly strong but largely overlooked member of early American society. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 168Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-0871-1 • Hardback • December 2014 • $50.00 • (£32.95) - Currently out of stock. Copies will arrive soon.
978-1-4422-0872-8 • Paperback • March 2017 • $28.00 • (£18.95)
978-1-4422-0873-5 • eBook • December 2014 • $26.00 • (£17.95)

Emily West is associate professor in American history at the University of Reading and the author of Chains of Love: Slave Couples in Antebellum South Carolina and Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South.


Chapter 1 Enslaving African Women

Chapter 2 Enslaved Women in the Colonial Era

Chapter 3 Enslaved Women in the Revolutionary Era and Early Republic

Chapter 4 Enslaved Women in the Antebellum South

Chapter 5 Enslaved Women in the Civil War



Bibliographic Essay


About the Author
West examines the experiences of enslaved African American women from the 16th-century African slave trade to the 19th-century Reconstruction era. Part of the publisher's African American History Series, this text synthesizes numerous valuable details about slave women’s experiences while still being concise enough not to overwhelm nonexperts. Significant to the book is the explication of women’s social and cultural experiences, including their familial and labor expectations. West also carefully weaves in elements of the political and economic climate in order to illustrate how local as well as national forces played a role in the average bondwoman’s life. In addition to the detailed narrative, also significant is the inclusion of select primary sources that demonstrate the true experiences of enslaved women by those who underwent and witnessed them. Ideal for collections in US history, women’s history, and the history of American slavery, or for average readers who want to truly understand the experiences of enslaved American women of the past. Summing Up: Recommended. General collections through graduate libraries.

This volume would be a suitable introduction to slavery for first- or second-year undergraduates. And not to be overlooked, the primary documents section includes a number of well-chosen WPA interviews: they are vivid material for lively class discussions.
Journal of Southern History

Emily West’s comprehensive analysis of the lives of enslaved women in North America from the colonial period through Emancipation and the Reconstruction Amendments skilfully links these women’s experiences over time through their shared experience of suffering, exploitation, and strategies of survival. Weaving a wealth of primary sources into a thoughtful and sensitive analysis, this book is a must read for students of American slavery.
Rebecca Fraser, University of East Anglia

This important and highly-readable synthesis traces the lives of African women from the point of enslavement through emancipation in the nineteenth century. With examples of primary sources and an informative bibliographic essay this book will be the starting point for all those interested in the female slave experience in North America.
Timothy Lockley, University of Warwick

This boldly-conceived and ambitious work demonstrates the crucial significance of gendered relationships as a central dynamic in the slave experience. Unmatched in its chronological breadth and insightful in its analysis, this compelling narrative will captivate students, academics, and all those who seek to understand American slavery and the lives of those whose labour was of seminal importance in the creation of America.
Laura Sandy, Keele University

West's engaging introduction to women's experience of slavery in the U.S. tells us why gender matters to the study of slavery's history, how women's experiences changed over time, and how enslaved women hastened the end of slavery during the Civil War. Enslaved Women in America offers an excellent guide to this complex and rich history, and includes a welcome selection of interviews and memoirs that allow us to see the past from the perspective of those who lived through it. I highly recommend this book.
Leslie Schwalm, University of Iowa

This timely examination covers enormous ground in tracing the historical experiences of female slaves from West Africa to the Deep South over the entirety of their captivity in North America. Emily West draws out the dual exploitation of enslaved women as workers and reproducers in succinct and authoritative prose suitable for all readers.
David Brown, University of Manchester