Antebellum Slave Families: The Two Parent Household Persuasive Essay

An exploration of the family structures established by antebellum slaves despite the oppression they faced.
# 146445 | 2,531 words | 7 sources | APA | 2010 | US
Published on Dec 27, 2010 in African-American Studies (Slavery)

$19.95 Buy and instantly download this paper now


This paper focuses on the family structure of antebellum slave households, aiming to disprove the claim that male slaves intentionally designed their families to be matriarchal, without fathers. The paper contends that least half of U.S. Southern slave families were headed by two parent households and another 12 to 15 percent consisted of one part time parent, usually from another plantation who would visit regularly. The paper also asserts that slaves developed persistent family ties despite the threat of separation by sale and forced migrations. The paper concludes that the adversities faced by generations of slaves, designed to keep them chattel and perceived as less than human, did not deter their desire to seek mates, court, marry, and have children.

From the Paper:

"The master's involvement in slave marriage was dependent on his involvement within the plantation. A present master had a more active approval of slave unions but the unions were not singularly dependent upon the approval of the master. Many could and did occur without his approval but usually with his knowledge. Unfortunately, sexual exploitation of the slave woman tended to be at the heart of asking permission. The sexual exploitation of slave women, prevalent throughout the slave holding community and evident in birth records, did not deter the slave's desire to engage in a loving, respectable relationship as much as an exploitive master would have liked. Even in these cases, slave men and women sought loving relationships and marriages outside of the masters' dominance. Dictated by respect for kinship elders or out of fear of the master, slaves sought approval to marry but generally did not seek approval to court or be courted by a potential mate. Permission to marry usually came after the establishment of a relationship and according to slave narratives, tended to surprise, and could enrage a master. Harriet Jacobs' master was told of her intention to marry a man of her choosing and his threatening reply included an offer to marry one of his slaves but she stood fast against his will. "Do you suppose, sir, that a slave can have some preference about marrying? Do you suppose that all men are alike to her?...If he is a puppy then I am a puppy, for we are both of the negro race. It is right and honorable for us to love each other." "

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bibb, Henry. The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb:An American S
  • Dunaway, Wilma A. The African American family in slavery and emancipation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Gutman, Herbert G. "Family Life." In Slavery in American Society, by Brown, Rabe Goodheart, 161-166. Lexington, Ma: D.C. Heath and Company, 1993.
  • Kolchin, Peter. American Slavery. New York: Will and Wang, 2003.
  • Lan, David. Guns and Rain:Guerillas & Spirit Mediums inZimbabwe. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985.

Cite this Persuasive Essay:

APA Format

Antebellum Slave Families: The Two Parent Household (2010, December 27) Retrieved May 16, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Antebellum Slave Families: The Two Parent Household" 27 December 2010. Web. 16 May. 2021. <>