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PSU McNair Scholars Online Journal

Article Title

Searching the Silence: Finding Black Women’s Resistance to Slavery in Antebellum U.S. History

Abstract

This paper will explore the topic of black female resistance to slavery in the antebellum United States with a focus on how female slaves’ reproductive decisions, namely abortion and infanticide, can be analyzed as resistance against slaveholders' methods of slave breeding, and therefore against the system of slavery and oppression itself. Within my paper I will appraise how a nuanced definition of resistance can be applied to these gendered methods of opposition, and how other historians before me have chosen to use this term in these instances. I will also investigate how other historians and writers have decided what, or how much, of such information proves that these incidents occurred, and how generalizations about female slaves’ reproductive choices have been made. Finally, I will reflect on the varied and slippery nature of the primary evidence that I have found, which includes medical publications, abolitionist journals, WPA slave narratives, newspaper articles, and a plantation journal.

Faculty Mentor: Patricia Schechter