The Unspoken Demands of Slavery: The Exploitation of Female Slaves in the Memphis Slave Trade
In the antebellum South, exploitation and mistreatment characterized the plight of the female slave. In Memphis, the story remained unchanged. The abusive and exploitative nature of the Memphis slave trade emerges through high prices for particular female slaves, the growth of the mulatto population, and the existence of mulatto children from certain prominent local figures. The survival of slavery depended upon the ability of the domestic slave population to sustain itself through the female slave population. This view of bondswomen as natural breeders and the accessibility of enslaved females in an urban setting, subjected them to sexual violence and exploitation. Higher average prices for young female slaves capable of having children, and higher prices for women with conventionally attractive qualities show that the price paid for a bondswoman can be used to infer the motives for buying her. Prominent men, including Nathan Bedford Forrest, left behind evidence of their exploitation of the women they owned in the children that resulted from the relationships. In Memphis between 1850 and 1860, in the most populous ward of the city, there was a 27% rise in the percent of the population considered Mulatto. A rise in the population of slaves of mixed race is the physical evidence of sexual relations occurring between slave women and the white men who owned them.
Eiland, Sarah W.
"The Unspoken Demands of Slavery: The Exploitation of Female Slaves in the Memphis Slave Trade,"
The Gettysburg College Journal of the Civil War Era: Vol. 10, Article 6.
Available at: https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/gcjcwe/vol10/iss1/6