The Disturbing Truth About White Women Who Enslaved


Revising history with a swipe of a pen, past historians filled books with text portraying wealthy white women during American slavery as innocent bystanders of the atrocity that was occurring.

But the truth is far more disturbing than that.

In author Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers’ new book, “They Were Her Property: White Women As Slave Owners in the American South,” the truth of white women’s violent participation in the brutal business of enslaving and owning Black humans unfolds.

Unlike historians of the 1970s and ‘80s, who focused their research on letters and diaries of elite white mistresses who “fell” into the role of slaveholder, Jones-Rogers gives voice to those held captive in bondage.

By centering the narratives of formerly-enslaved Black people, their experiences shed bountiful light on how white women were just as brutal as white men owners.

Even more, white women often used owning enslaved Black people as a stepping stone into self-autonomy. “For them,” Jones-Rogers wrote, “slavery is their freedom.”

Whether they were placing ads in newspapers when their “property” escaped, orchestrating sexual violence against Black women by white men, or just plainly treating the enslaved without an ounce of humanity, white women slave owners were far from bystanders.

They were also in charge, brutalizing for profit and pleasure.

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