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Library Journal Review
This book challenges the myth of the Southern mammy and other myths and attempts a richer, more complex pic ture of the lives of black women in slav ery. Drawing on historical evidence, in cluding slave narratives and the diaries and autobiographies of white Southern ers, as well as on recent scholarship on the black family, the author examines slave women's daily life, occupations, family roles, and female networks. She finds strength and resourcefulness, but denies that female slaves played a dom ineering role in their families. Her view will be of interest to scholars, especial ly those studying comparative female social roles. For most readers, howev er, the story of slave women is better told in Jacqueline Jones's comprehen sive work on black women, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow (LJ 3/1/85). Mary Drake McFeely, Smith Coll. Lib., Northampton, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
White has written the only exploration of the American black women's experience in slavery during the 19th century. She maintains that female slaves suffered the dual burden of racism and sexism, which made them the most oppressed group in America but distinguished them from all women's experience only in degree rather than in kind. Male and female slaves performed different labor, resulting from white expectations of proper work for (slave) women. No surprise, White maintains, that female reproductivity governed the fate of slave women. Barren women were sold like damaged goods while especially fecund females received rewards in clothing and lighter work assignments. Slave women formed bonds with one another that helped them to survive their oppression. They also ``enjoyed'' a measure of ``equality'' within the slave family that white women could not find in the free one. White describes the function of the Mammy and Jezebel mythology that simultaneously desexed black women and justified Southern sexual exploitation. Little of what White describes is new; her only significant original contribution pertains to the white image of black women, not to the actual lives of those women. Sometimes polemical and present-minded, this book is a provocative overview of the subject appropriate for college and public libraries.-D. Yacovone, Millersville University of Pennsylvania