Rape and Race in the Nineteenth-century South

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Univ of North Carolina Press, 2004 - History - 411 pages
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Challenging notions of race and sexuality presumed to have originated and flourished in the slave South, Diane Miller Sommerville traces the evolution of white southerners' fears of black rape by examining actual cases of black-on-white rape throughout the nineteenth century.

Sommerville demonstrates that despite draconian statutes, accused black rapists frequently avoided execution or castration, largely due to intervention by members of the white community. This leniency belies claims that antebellum white southerners were overcome with anxiety about black rape. In fact, Sommerville argues, there was great fluidity across racial and sexual lines as well as a greater tolerance among whites for intimacy between black males and white females. According to Sommerville, pervasive misogyny fused with class prejudices to shape white responses to accusations of black rape even during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, a testament to the staying power of ideas about poor women's innate depravity.

Based predominantly on court records and supporting legal documentation, Sommerville's examination forces a reassessment of long-held assumptions about the South and race relations as she remaps the social and racial terrain on which southerners--black and white, rich and poor--related to one another over the long nineteenth century.

 

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Contents

INTRODUCTION
iii
NOT SO HEINOUS AS AT FIRST MIGHT BE SUPPOSED Slave Rape Gender and Class in Old South Communities
5
A MANIFEST DISTINCTION BETWEEN A WOMAN AND A FEMALE CHILD Rape Law Children and the Antebellum South
28
HE SHALL SUFFER DEATH BlackonWhite Rape Law in the Early South
58
THE VERY HELPLESSNESS OF THE ACCUSED APPEALS TO OUR SYMPATHY Rape Race and Southern Appellate Law
72
AGAINST ALL ODDS? Free Blacks on Trial for Rape in the Antebellum South
88
RARELY KNOWN TO VIOLATE A WHITE WOMAN Slave Rape in Civil WarEra Virginia
106
OUR JUDICIARY SYSTEM IS A FARCE Remapping the Legal Landscape of Rape in the PostEmancipation South
133
FOUL DAUGHTER OF RECONSTRUCTION? Black Rape in the Reconstruction South
162
THE OLD THREADBARE LIE The Rape Myth and Alternatives to Lynching
186
EPILOGUE
205
RAPE RACE AND RHETORIC The Rape Myth in Historiographical Perspective
209
NOTES
247
BIBLIOGRAPHY
335
INDEX
381
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Diane Miller Sommerville is associate professor of history at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

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