Cover: Born in Bondage: Growing Up Enslaved in the Antebellum South, from Harvard University PressCover: Born in Bondage in PAPERBACK

Born in Bondage

Growing Up Enslaved in the Antebellum South

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Product Details


$34.00 • £27.95 • €30.50

ISBN 9780674007208

Publication Date: 09/01/2001


288 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

19 halftones, 2 maps


Schwartz makes the original and useful point that there was an inherent conflict between paternalism…and the efforts of slaves to maintain a family life of their own. To the degree that masters took direct responsibility for slave children they undermined the authority of the parents and the unity of the slave family.—George M. Fredrickson, The New York Review of Books

Relying primarily on the narratives with former slaves conducted under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration, Schwartz focuses her attention on slaves in Virginia, along the rice coast of South Carolina and Georgia, and in Alabama. The result is a carefully constructed monograph that manages to offer new insights about familiar subjects… Her attention to the life cycle of slave children and families offers a fresh take on these familiar arguments, helping to strengthen them and to reaffirm the impressive accomplishment of slaves’ survival.—Marli F. Weiner, Georgia Historical Quarterly

In Born in Bondage, Marie Jenkins Schwartz uses WPA slave narratives as well as diaries, letters, and account books left by slave holders to compare and contrast parents’ and slaveowners’ expectations, hopes, and meanings attached to a child born in slavery. Masters and parents both hoped to impart to the children their own beliefs about slavery, self-esteem, and the southern social system. Tracing the stages of a slave child’s life from conception and birth to courtship and marriage, this book details the way that decisions were made about raising enslaved children and the way slave children learned to perceive their own lives.—Angela Boswell, H-Net Reviews

Marie Jenkins Schwartz provides a masterful analysis…as she traces slaves’ experiences from infancy and childhood through adolescence and into parenthood. In doing so, she adds to our understanding of the subtle power plays involved in plantation life and the extent to which children often become pawns in ongoing struggles over authority and identity… Schwartz’s most original contribution lies in framing her findings in the arch of life stages from birth to adulthood.—John C. Inscoe, Journal of the Early Republic

Historian Schwartz focuses on the parent–child bond in this nuanced study of the pressures that slavery placed on the families and how parents and children responded.—Mary Carroll, Booklist

She is particularly insightful at describing 19th-century African American child-rearing practices and the relationships between slave children and their parents… Schwartz makes several major contributions to scholarly understanding of the history of antebellum slavery, the slave family, and childhood.—E. W. Carp, Choice

Awards & Accolades

  • 2001 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, Southern Association for Women Historians
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