Today’s ebook and crochet selection is #tararevisited by #catherineclinton. This title is currently available to borrow as an ebook from #hoopla
While easy to read and interesting, this is just a fail on every other level. This is not a look at the civil war from the view of southern women both black and white.
Instead this book primarily focuses, at least 70-75%, on southern white women who held black people in bondage. There’s maybe 5-10% about middle class southern white women who became nurses or were the wives of overseers. Overseers wives, we know from The Slave Narratives, held a lot of power over the lives of enslaved peoples.
I’d say maybe 20% of the book deals with black women during the Civil War. Of that 20%, a minuscule amount of the narrative is actually from the pov of black enslaved women. A sizable portion is reflective of how southern white slave holding women were impacted by the actions and choices of black folks during this period. How these white women were frightened and inconvenienced by the growing freedoms of enslaved blacks. The author very much cherry picked the Slave Narratives as a source.
Even the language used in the black women sections was condescending and racialized. There’s a section on enslaved blacks being ‘self sufficient’ as in growing food and feeding themselves. White slave holders being self sufficient was the true surprise, as they had needed assistance to provide for themselves, hence the institution of chattel slavery. White slave holding women didn’t even feed their own infants, they had zero self sufficiency. Most enslaved people’s were responsible for growing their own food in addition to working sunrise to sunset, blacks were always self sufficient as in their labor more than provided for their consumption needs. West Africans were amazingly self sufficient and highly knowledgeable regardless of nation which is why they were attractive enough to Europeans to create the chattel slave trade in the first place. The author’s racism is cringe worthy.
White women on slave owning plantations: whether the wife or daughter of the owner or the overseer had a lot of control over the lives and punishment of the enslaved. Wives of slave holders hung children by their thumbs in closets, implored various other means of corporal punishment as well as deprivation and emotional punishment on enslaved peoples as young as infants. White women were often the instigator of sales and the break up of families. All of this is in the Slave Narratives. As well as various individually published slave narratives. Unfortunately the author did not choose to tell black enslaved women’s history where it incriminated white slave holding women or the confederacy.
Instead the sections on black enslaved women are told from primarily the pov of how white women are impacted by the enslaved. For example black men leaving and other enslaved families walking off after the war gets going which intensifies after the Emancipation Proclamation. How white women were impacted and felt about that as they were left in charge by their husbands.
At no point is it addressed that this is the best thing to happen to black people in the US since the first West African arrived here in what would become the US in chains. History tells us black folks left to seek out family members: lost parents, siblings, spouses and most especially children. Many left to take advantage of freedom or to go with their spouses and keep families together. Whole enslaved families but mostly individuals joined ‘contraband’ camps and later the Union Army, the men fought and the women cooked. No doubt this was a very exciting and anxiety provoking time for black women. There very world was being made anew. For black folks this is the war of independence.
I can not imagine the pride, joy, honor and happiness black enslaved women must’ve felt seeing black men in Union uniforms. This is not really discussed. Only from white women’s pov and as if black union soldiers existed solely to intimidate racist white southern women. Here’s the thing though, white women are responsible for their own racism and bigotry so if they felt fear at seeing armed black union soldiers, that should not be treated as a valid fear. Because it is not. Historically white women have always caused considerably more harm to black folks, than ever they have to them. If confused by this, Google Emmett Till and how his accuser lied and is still free to this day.
This book even backs up that more sexual assaults are reported against black enslaved women than white slave holding women by union soldiers. No mention made of southern white wen and women sexually assaulting black men, women and children for centuries, and how this must have continued amongst the confederacy during the war.
The author wants to paint southern white slave holding women as sympathetic and, well, they are not. White men weren’t the only ones who participated in the crimes against humanity that occurred during chattel slavery. White southern slave holding women are as complicit as their respective husbands, brothers, father’s, uncles, sons, etc. This text simply acknowledges that black enslaved women existed in the confederacy and stipulates, erroneously, that they were ‘managed’ not held by white women.
Sparingly is the term ‘white women’ used to designate white women in this text. Instead terms like ‘south carolina women on plantations’ which the reader is supposed to understand means white women. As if no black women existed on south carolina plantations or were they not women? In contrast black women are always identified, as African American, I prefer black. AA may have been more commonly used academically when this was published.
This book presents the confederacy: women and soldiers as heroes and brave souls. With the Union as tyrannical human rights violators who are prone to antagonistic violence.
The only problem is this books promises to give a ‘diverse’ view of the Civil War. This is a white southern slave holding view. That’s not at all diverse. What about poor white women who had husband’s that held no enslaved peoples? How did they feel watching rich slave holding white men buy their way out of serving in the Confederacy when their husbands had to fight? How did jewish southern women feel? Other woc living in the South? This book has an extremely narrow view.
White Confederates, women or not, were human rights violators and treasonous losers.
Every single white person who held enslaved peoples or participated in the chattel slave trade was a human rights violator and monster. As were blacks and other poc who profited off of the chattel slave trade.
That doesn’t mean those white slave holding women deserved to be assaulted by Union Soldiers, no one deserves that. However you can’t tell the story of enslaved black women without talking about how white women who held them in bondage used and abused them. I understand that makes it hard to make these white women sympathetic. That is as it should be. Southern white slave holding women are more than the crimes they participated in but they can’t be removed from their crimes wholesale. That would be a misrepresentation of actual history and disrespectful to their black enslaved victims.
To sum this up, white feminism writes a racist history of white slave holding women on plantations during the civil war. Tara is not revisited, this upholds much of the racist misconceptions that occur as a result of the ridiculous novel and movie, gone with the wind.