Courtship and Love among the Enslaved in North Carolina
Through an examination of various couples who were forced to live in slavery, Rebecca J. Fraser argues that slaves found ways to conduct successful courting relationships. In its focus on the processes of courtship among the enslaved, this study offers further insight into the meanings that structured intimate lives.
Establishing their courtships, often across plantations, the enslaved men and women of antebellum North Carolina worked within and around the slave system to create and maintain meaningful personal relationships that were both of and apart from the world of the plantation. They claimed the right to participate in the social events of courtship and, in the process, challenged and disrupted the southern social order in discreet and covert acts of defiance.
Informed by feminist conceptions of gender, sexuality, power, and resistance, the study argues that the courting relationship afforded the enslaved a significant social space through which they could cultivate alternative identities to those which were imposed upon them in the context of their daily working lives.
Rebecca J. Fraser is lecturer in American studies at the University of East Anglia. Her essays have appeared in Journal of Southern History and Slavery and Abolition.
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