White women, Black men : illicit sex in the nineteenth-century South /

Main Author: Hodes, Martha Elizabeth.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, c1997.
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Review by Choice Review

Hodes's monograph is a valuable contribution to the growing scholarship that challenges static and rigid assumptions about race. Illicit sex between white women and black men, she argues, produced mob violence and vigilante justice only in the decades after emancipation, when free black male sexuality, conflated with political power, symbolically threatened white male political supremacy. Court records and newspapers from the century before emancipation reveal little evidence of communal rage targeting black men in these liaisons. Although never condoned, sexual relationships between white women and black men under slavery entered the legal record only when children of questionable color and status issued. Family and neighbors usually blamed a lower-class white woman, because slave men were valuable investments protected by the patriarchal slave system. In chapters on interracial marriage, bastardy, adultery, and disputed ancestry, Hodes constructs interesting narratives compiled from scanty records to illustrate the problems of sex, color, and freedom. Three chapters devoted to the war and later decades explain the politicization of interracial sex (the term miscegenation dates from 1864) and the rise of lynching as a response. A detailed bibliography and notes on sources are especially valuable to researchers. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. K. Gedge West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Slavery as a racial institution depended on prima facie recognition. At the same time, because status as slave or free person was inherited matrilineally, nothing confounded the system of racial hierarchy in the antebellum South as much as the offspring of black men and white women. As this fascinating and well-researched book makes clear, however, sexual liaisons between black men and white women prior to the Civil War were accepted, although not necessarily approved. Such liaisons were most often consensual, and although at times problematic, they did not trigger political violence. White women were not always perceived as victims, and black men were not automatically seen as rapists. Only after the war, as former slaves became a threat to white political and economic power, did white ideas about the dangers of black male sexuality become interwoven with politics and violent repression through lynching and castration of black men. This is a great book for those interested in African American history, women's studies, the Civil War, or the history of race relations in the U.S. --Grace Fill

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Hodes (history, New York Univ.) provides the first real scholarly exploration of this important topic. Relying primarily on legal documents and testimony generated by court cases, Hodes gives us several detailed case studies. She finds that before the Civil War, whites generally did not react violently to cases of interracial liaison but rather displayed a complex range of attitudes, from indifference to concern (especially if children resulted from the "connection"). In the postbellum period, however, whites often responded with extreme violence to any hint of miscegenation. Indeed, in an effort to diminish black political power, whites often invented incidents of interracial contact and reacted accordingly. A brilliant work, imaginatively researched and well written. Highly recommended.¬ĎAnthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.