They Fought With Everything They Had To Control Their Bodies While Enslaved

black mother holding her child with another black woman standing nearby
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
May 4, 2022

White supremacy has always made Black women fight for reproductive freedom.

Importing enslaved Africans became illegal in 1808 – so enslavers attempted to force our people into unwanted pregnancy and childbirth to create more free labor. But our women fought back!

They used the moon to track their menstrual cycles, and consumed herbs and plants like cotton root to induce their periods.

Enslavers would rape enslaved women, or pair enslaved men and women together, bribing the couples with goods or better living arrangements to forcibly “breed” them. 

Some enslaved pairings split the goods, but agreed to not have sex! This strategy bought enslaved women years of avoiding forced breeding, especially if they faked pregnancies or miscarriages.

Terrible working conditions meant miscarriages were common anyway – so enslaved women took advantage of this and faked pregnancies and miscarriages to avoid rape and the worst of the back-breaking labor.

Abortions were also likely common through a variety of methods.

Had medical abortions been available, many enslaved women would have gotten them – they didn’t want their children to be enslaved, nor did they want to birth their abuser’s children. 

Black women are still fighting systems created during enslavement meant to control their bodies. All Black people should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies, including refusing forced pregnancy and saying “no” to non-consensual sex.

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