U.S. Constitution and U.S. Slavery, Discussion Starter

Dr. Leigh Discussion Leader
  • Davis, A. Y. (1983). Women, race & class. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  • Bell, D. (1987). And we are not saved: The elusive quest for racial justice. New York, NY: BasicBooks

Genderless and sexually abused

  • Using rape as a weapon
  • Breeding ability for women
  • Slave owner had an agenda when it came to the type of ideas
  • Did not want one gender to get authoritative 
  • Jobs were given out to people no matter what the gender is with respect to work
  • Black Women were not seen as women — they were not deemed fit
  • True White Womanhood were dainty, and Black Women were not considered any gender
  • Black Women suffered in a different way… sexual abuse and having children taken away… 
Explain how it was possible for this contradiction to play out in reality
What connections can be made between those descriptors of the enslaved Black female? (How did these characteristics benefit the slave owner?)
Status of children determined by mother (Lerner)
  • “party sequiter ventrum” child follows condition of the mother (Davis) **
  • ** Partus sequitur ventrem. The offspring follow the condition of the mother. This is the law in the case of slaves and animals; 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 167, 502; but with regard to freemen, children follow the condition of the father.
In your opinion are Black families today more or less matriarchal than patriarchal (or neither)? Explain.
  • Is it a perception that they are matriarchal? (Many people nodded).
  • Davis’s piece speaks to how Black women are not written about in history because of the White power. 
  • If there is no man, the perception is it is matriarchal.
  • Lerner spoke about “Fighting and Kicking” the mother refused to be dominated by the master.
  • Davis made mention of the Black male role as isolated
  • If it is matriarchal – so what… why does it matter? why should we allow men to be in power?
What is Davis’s stance on the notion that the Black slave family was ‘matriarchal’?
Was there evidence in the slave narrative you read to support or refute this view?
If you liked Bell, what was appealing?
  • V, “When I first started reading Black authors, I only read women. When I read Bell, he captured the essence. It made me think about it.”
  • R, “It is a fascinating what if…”
  • A, “One is the storytelling bringing fact and fiction together; Secondly, I wondered why he chose a Black woman to defend everything he does… You could have chose a Black male, or child – why a Black woman? If Black men were 3/5 of a man then Black women were not anything…” 
  • K, “It makes you think of all the different sides, history, and how it all may have played out differently.”
If you didn’t like Bell, what hindered your understanding?
If you could send Geneva anywhere, where would it be?
  • Sit in on the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and how Black women should have been a part of the experience.
  • A H.S. staff meeting or in-service
  • Brown
  • Black Church and addressing the role of Women Preachers
  • Talk to Bill Clinton about welfare reform
What was the nature of slavery before the transatlantic slave trade?

• American slavery was property driven, and African’s were not considered people
• Slavery: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery
What do you know about Triangle Trade?


In what ways did the U.S. Constitution protect slavery?
The Constitution and Slavery:
Provisions in the Original Constitution
Article I, Section. 2 [Slaves count as 3/5 persons]
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons [i.e., slaves].
Article I, Section. 9, clause 1.  [No power to ban slavery until 1808]
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person. Article IV, Section. 2. [Free states cannot protect slaves]
No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.
Article V [No Constitutional Amendment to Ban Slavery Until 1808]
…No Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article.

The Thirteenth Amendment
Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.
Section 1.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

What motivated them?
To create a Federal Government that all the states would sign

Reflections on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution
Thurgood Marshall , May 6, 1987

How did Black slaves resist?
  • Giving up life before getting here
  • Women killing their children so they do not have to live in slavery
  • Dropping white children
  • Grinding up glass and putting it in the Master’s food

Ch. 1 In Secret Places: Acquiring Literacy in Slave Communities
Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World

  • free-enslaved father, free mother
  • Called for armed resistance
  • Linked literary to slavery’s demise
  • 60 copies confiscated in Georgia
  • Quarantined ships passed new laws in punishments
Africans in America: America’s Journey THrough Slavery [videorecording] PBS/WGBH Boston Video

“See your Declaration Americans! ! ! Do you understand your won language? Hear your languages, proclaimed to the world, July 4th, 1776 — “We hold these truths to be self evident — that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL! ! that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! !” Compare your own language above, extracted from your Declaration of Indep
endence, with your cruelties and murders inflicted by your cruel and unmerciful fathers and yourselves on our fathers and on us — men who have never given your fathers or you the least provocation! ! ! ! ! “

David Walker’s Appeal, In Four Articles: Together With A Preamble To The Coloured Citizens Of The World, But In Particular, And Very Expressly, To Those Of The United States Of America, revised Edition with an Introduction by Sean Wilentz
Hill and Wang, New York, 1995
A Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux