Creating and upholding a family in the institution of slavery

Term Paper, 2011

12 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introdcution

2. The Woman – Her Lives
2.1. Her duties – Concubine, Slave, Servant: Helping or Hindering
2.2. Mammy and Mother – Privilege or Curse

3. The Mulatto Offspring
3.1. Part of the Institution of Slavery or a Family
3.2. Adult Life – The Wish, The Hindrances, Her Color

4. Conclusion.

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

In an encyclopedia the term family is defined as “a fundamental social group in society consisting of one or two parents and their children,” and “all the members of a household under one roof.”[1] Many more definitions have evolved over time through social changes in different societies and have been focused on in cultural studies. In times of slavery in the U.S. blacks had to cope with their living conditions and in that still had the urge to create families. This often was made impossible right from the start because “[l]arge owners often refused to allow marriage[. . .].”[2] Rarely, if ever, the family of slaves could be described as nuclear – father, mother and child. The cause for the lack of a family was easily found. Eugene Genovese explains: “[M]any masters did not respect their slaves’ family feelings and did not hesitate to sell them as individuals.”[3] The physical separation or the fear of such made it difficult to built a loving family. Within the system of slavery, “[. . .] the mother role took on a stronger image,”[4] states Staples. The father figure never withheld great importance within the family structure for various reasons. One of them is that the status of a child always got defined by the status of his or her mother. Children are being influenced during every day of their lives by their parents or the lack thereof. Connected to Alice Randall’s parody “The Wind Done Gone”[5] my analysis will focus on what factors constituted issues in constructing a family for house slaves. I want to point out the difficulties especially women experienced when trying to build a family, and how they influenced the mother-daughter relationship. What mark did they leave on the daughter’s future and how did she cope with the problems of creating a family of her own? Particularly for mulattoes, I am interested in if and how the race itself caused issues that needed to be overcome.

2. The Woman – Her Lives

2.1. Her Duties - Concubine, Slave, Servant: Helping or Hindering

When African American women were enslaved, they often encountered similar destinies besides having to work on fields for their masters. On a plantation it was common for white men, despite being married, to take black females for concubinage. Actually, “[. . .] much of the plantation miscegenation occurred with single girls under circumstances that varied from seduction to rape and typically fell between the two.”[6] Besides having to endure this, often a child of mixed race decent was the outcome similar to the parody by Randall. Although “[m]any white men who began by taking a slave girl in an act of sexual exploitation ended by loving her [concubine] and the children she bore,” (RJR 415) it seemed obvious to alle people involved that they could not live together as a family. Intermarriage between a white man and a black women was neither liked nor allowed by law. Often women were robbed the opportunity to form a family when they were young. One who went through the described scenarios knew she would, under her circumstances, not have a partner nor a father for her child. By the status of a slave, her freedom was taken from her and with that the opportunity to find someone to love or feel loved by. As a result, she had to fulfill her duties as a house servant with no consideration of her mother role. “Mammy worked from can’t-see in the morning to can’t-see at night, in that great whitewashed widecolumned house surrounded by curvy furrowed fields,” (16). Field hands were sometimes granted Sundays or holidays off to attend to their private business (as growing crops, hunting little animals or caring for their family). In contrast, house servants had to work rarely had time to themselves because there always were tasks that needed attending when their masters were resting, for example preparing dinner. “Mammy never knew rest [. . .],” (17). This time schedule made it even more complicated for these women to spend time with their children and enjoy moments within the family.


[1] The Free Dictionary. 01 November 2011 <>.

[2] Calhoun, Ph.D. Arthur W. A Social History of the American Family ( New York: Barnes & Noble: 1945 Vol.2) 248.

[3] Genovese, Eugene D. Roll Jordan Roll (New York: Vintage, 1976) 457. All parethentical references follow this edition [RJR]

[4] Staples, Ph.D. Robert. The Black Woman in America: Sex Marriage, and the Family (Chicago: Nelson Hall Publishers, 1973) 133.

[5] Randall, Alice. The Wind Done Gone (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001). All parenthetical references follow this edition.

[6] Spickard, Paul R. Mixed Blood (USA: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989) 243.

Excerpt out of 12 pages


Creating and upholding a family in the institution of slavery
Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg  (Amerikanistik)
Mixed Race in American Culture and Literature
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
376 KB
mulatto, mulatta, slavery, mixed race, house slaves, the wind done gone, gone with the wind, family relations
Quote paper
Franziska Schulze (Author), 2011, Creating and upholding a family in the institution of slavery, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Creating and upholding a family in the institution of slavery

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free