This book explores the dynamics of a relationship between black men and white women throughout periods in history.
It follows a white servant named Eleanor Butler, or Irish Nell and black slave named Charles. Very early on into the reading, I read that children on mixed race couples were enslaved. On page 19, the author shares a common question that white elite’s had “Why would a white woman marry a black man when the law stipulated that a white woman and all her childcare would become slaves by virtue of that marriage?” When a white women would marry a black slave, they were considered slaves as well. Nell and Charles children either lived on the plantation or were sold to other families.
During the Time that Nell and Charles lived in their community, it seems that the community was very involved in the law and making sure people followed it. They felt they needed to police and maintain their order. Nell and Charles relationship was not completely accepted, but it still is an interesting one. Since Nell was still considered lower class and was a servant, there was not a great difference in class and treatment between Nell and Charles.
Women were in short supply. White men could go out and search for a wife but enslaved black men were not able to do this. Black women were at higher risk of death and sickness. Since their standards of living were not great, it affected their ability to have children – a common expectation of a man during that time.
On page 24, they talk about penalties put into place to keep women focused on work and not things like children and pregnancy. Reproduction was closely watched. If a woman did become pregnant while working as a servant, masters would add time to their term, keeping them working longer
Like in Nell’s case, the children would be enslaved if the father was black. These implications helped to control women and keep them from straying from their labor. For the upper white folks, having a white women marry a black slave crossed multiple boundaries in a way they had not seen before. It was confusing because their were flaws in expectations between freedom and enslavement.