Chapter 24: “I am More than a Victim:” The Slave Woman Stereotype in Antebellum Narratives by Black Men

Black men have always been significant participants in the way American society perceives black women. Specifically, as the predominantly published writers of 19th- century slave narrative, black men were in a key position to present slave women in ways standing in opposition to the well-established constructs of black female stereotypes. In addition, as first-hand reporters of slave culture, black male narrative writers were also positioned to corroborate their female cohorts’ stories of sexual abuse, sexual coercion, and motherhood in ways that were respectful of and sensitive to the agency demonstrated by slave women while navigating the most horrific of circumstances. Yet slave women are understood primarily as victims of slavery’s abuses, in no small part due to the images presented and tones of voice used to describe them in slave narratives written by black men. This study investigates the role of stereotype in defining and representing black women in African-American literature.