1st Edition

Motherhood, Childlessness and the Care of Children in Atlantic Slave Societies

    392 Pages
    by Routledge

    390 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book provides critical perspectives on the multiple forms of ‘mothering’ that took place in Atlantic slave societies. Facing repeated child death, mothering was a site of trauma and grief for many, even as slaveholders romanticized enslaved women’s work in caring for slaveholders' children.

    Examining a wide range of societies including medieval Spain, Brazil, and New England, and including the work of historians based in Brazil, Cuba, the United States, and Britain, this collection breaks new ground in demonstrating the importance of mothering for the perpetuation of slavery, and the complexity of the experience of motherhood in such circumstances.

    This pathbreaking collection, on all aspects of the experience, politics, and representations of motherhood under Atlantic slavery, analyses societies across the Atlantic world, and will be of interest to those studying the history of slavery as well as those studying mothering throughout history. This book comprises two special issues, originally published in Slavery & Abolition and Women’s History Review.


    Camillia Cowling, Maria Helena Pereira Toledo Machado, Diana Paton and Emily West

    Part I: Mothers, Masters and the State: Motherhood and Reproduction under Slavery and Freedom

    1. The Nameless and The Forgotten: Maternal Grief, Sacred Protection, and the Archive of Slavery

    Sasha Turner

    2. Maternal Struggles and the Politics of Childlessness under Pronatalist Caribbean Slavery

    Diana Paton

    3. "Bad Breeders" and "Monstrosities": Racializing Childlessness and Congenital Disabilities in Slavery and Freedom

    Jenifer L. Barclay

    Part II: Enslaved Women and the care of white children

    4. The Enslaved Wet Nurse as Nanny: The Transition from Free to Slave Labor in Childcare in Barcelona after the Black Death (1348)

    Rebecca Lynn Winer

    5. Between Two Beneditos: Enslaved Wet-Nurses amid Slavery’s Decline in Southeast Brazil

    Maria Helena Pereira Toledo Machado

    6. "[S]He Could…Spare One Ample Breast for the Profit of her Owner": White Mothers and Enslaved Wet Nurses’ Invisible Labor in American Slave Markets

    Stephanie Jones-Rogers

    7. Fertility Control, Shared Nurturing, and Dual Exploitation: The Lives of Enslaved Mothers in the Antebellum United States

    Emily West and Erin Shearer

    8. Black nannies: Hidden and Open Images in the Paintings of Nicolas-Antoine Taunay

    Lilia Moritz Schwarcz

    Part III: Sexuality, Respectability, and Violence

    9. ‘By her unnatural and despicable conduct’: motherhood and concubinage in the Watchman and Jamaica Free Press, 1830–1833

    Meleisa Ono-George

    10. Conceived in Violence: Enslaved Mothers and Children Born of Rape in Nineteenth-Century Louisiana

    Andrea Livesey

    11. Mistresses, Motherhood, and Maternal Exploitation in the Antebellum South

    R.J. Knight

    Part IV: The Geographies of Motherhood

    12. African Mothers in the City of Bahia, 1734-1799

    Carlos Eugênio Líbano Soares and Raíza Cristina Canuta da Hora

    13. The African Women of the Dos Hermanos Slave Ship in Cuba: slaves first, mothers second

    Aisnara Perera Díaz and María de los Ángeles Meriño Fuentes

    14. Gendered Geographies: Motherhood, Slavery, Law, and Space In Mid-Nineteenth-Century Cuba

    Camillia Cowling

    15. Mothering Slaves, Labor, and the Persistence of Slavery in Northeast Brazil: A Non-Plantation View from the Hinterlands of Ceará, 1813-1884

    Martha S. Santos

    Part V: Slavery and the Medicalisation of Childbirth

    16. Midwifery and Childbirth Among Enslaved and Freed Women in Rio de Janeiro in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century

    Tânia Pimenta

    17. Pregnant Slaves, Workers in Labour: Amid Doctors and Masters In A Slave-Owning City (nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro)

    Lorena Féres da Silva Telles

    Part VI: Mothering in the Era of Emancipation

    18. U.S. Slavery, Civil War, and the Emancipation of Enslaved Motherhood

    Leslie A. Schwalm

    19. Bad Mothers, Labouring Children: Emancipation, Tutelage and Motherhood in São Paulo in the Last Decades of the Nineteenth Century

    Marília Bueno de Araújo Ariza

    20. In Pursuit of Autonomous Womanhood: Nineteenth-Century Black Motherhood in the U.S. North

    Crystal Lynn Webster

    21. From Free Womb to Criminalized Woman: Fertility Control in Brazilian Slavery and Freedom

    Cassia Roth


    Camillia Cowling is Associate Professor of Latin American History at the University of Warwick, UK.

    Maria Helena Pereira Toledo Machado is Full Professor in the Department of History at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

    Diana Paton is William Robertson Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

    Emily West is Professor of History at the University of Reading, UK.