Brooke Washington – Week 1

Part 1: 

Introduction 

 

Hello all, 

My name’s Brooke and this is my last semester here at VCU. I am a sociology major with a minor in business administration, and I haven’t quite figured out exactly what I want to do with my degree. Grad school has always been a goal, specifically for health care administration, but my main goal for 2019 (a definite year off from school) is to travel to at least three countries I’ve never been to before. I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person, so I really want to experience new places openly and consider that I may not have discovered my true calling in life yet. I’m confident that traveling in general will help me decide exactly what I want for my future, besides a never-ending vacation of course. I work nearly full time as a waitress in short pump, so I try my best to balance that with school work. This is my third course in relation to African American studies, and I am looking forward to extending my knowledge and understanding of the subject.  

 

Part 2: 

“A History of U.S. Families with a Focus on African Americans” 

Family Structure: 

According to the article, historians have not confirmed which family structure was dominant amongst slaves. This is not difficult to believe, because slavery placed the production value of a slave over personal factors such as if they lived on plantations with their biological family members. Slaves could be bought, sold, and inherited which ultimately left the placement of a family of Africans up to the slave owners that purchased them. Marriage was not allowed amongst slaves, and women were often forced into intimate situations solely for the reason of producing children or simply because their slave master would call on them. This fact alone caused slaves to have children by people they would not have typically chosen as a part of their family structure.  

 

Demographics: 

Not all whites owned slaves, and fifteen percent owned plantations as this practice was exclusively for the wealthy. Most enslaved people came from western African countries, and ninety percent of African Americans were enslaved during this era. The game of auction was a reenactment of a live slave auction, where wealthy whites would purchase slaves. This “game” was mostly played by enslaved children.  

 

Women: 

No type of slave had full control over the bodies, but women certainly bared some of the worst conditions starting from early adolescence. Aside from physically upkeeping the land they worked on, slave women were bred similar to cattle simply because each child served as a free worker for their master. Sally Hemmings was a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson, and their relationship began as early as age fourteen for Sally. It was not confirmed until the end of the twentieth century, but it has been confirmed by DNA that at least one of Hemmings children were conceived with Jefferson. 

 

Children: 

Slaves would begin intense labor around the age of thirteen. Minor chores would be completely at ages younger than thirteen such as feeding livestock and caring for younger children. Slave elders would tell stories to younger generations and keep their culture by sharing songs and games that they were familiar with in their home countries. 

 

Theorists: 

Herbert Gutman changed the way we should think about the slave family dynamic and structure. He used historical documents to prove that slaves did their best to keep ties with their family members even when they were sold to different homes. Slaves still had forms of organized structure even when they had been separated from their siblings, parents, and other family members. Davis believed that slavery prevented slaves from having a nuclear structure all together, and she refutes some of Gutman’s claims because slavery did not allow families to stay together. Both scholars agree that it was difficult for families to maintain a structure in general. 

 

After Slavery: 

Even after slavery ended, most slave owners formed ways for slaves to still be in debt to them, which caused them to work as free labors similar to how they had been when slavery was legal. Most slaves were either born into slavery or living as slaves most of their lives, so they had no other form of stability outside of the plantation with which they could make better lives for themselves. Since a lot of the slaves were in debt, they would be hunted down if they tried to escape their masters, and law enforcement would comply with the owners regardless of slavery’s end. Sharecropping basically  formed a different type  of slavery that was in favor of whites, as slavery had always been.  

 

The Great Migration and Beyond: 

Industrialization was the main factor that propelled the Great Migration. This era was from 1916 to 1970, six-million African Americans moved from the rural south to other parts of the country. African American women worked domestically in most cases, taking on the house work and caring for children. The date of Plessy versus Ferguson is May 18, 1896, and it established racial segregation laws for public spaces.