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African American women were used as slaves in the United States. This subjected them to economic exploitation, and they suffer financially. This happened especially in the early nineteenth century. The African-American people were often enslaved, as they had no rights to be citizens. They were taken as the property of the white people (Hill, 2010).
The women who were subjected to slavery in the United States knew work as the central aspect of their life. Initiation into slave labor began in the childhood of these women or their initial stages of adolescence.
The slaves worked all their lives with exceptions in the periods when they were sick (Hill, 2010). The work of the young slaves mainly involved picking cotton and picking trash. The young women also carried drinking water to the fields to water livestock (Bronski, 2011). They also pulled weeds in the fields and gathered wood that was used as fuel in the homes. This was a way of preparing the young girls for slave labor in their later years (Barry, 1996).
The male and female children had different work experiences. Girls normally began working at tender ages and were mainly involved in housework. This is evidenced by the statistics, which show that 50% of the boys worked in fieldwork (Hill, 2010). This is as opposed to only 21% of the girls who worked in fieldwork.
Girls also started working at more tender ages as opposed to the boys. By age 7, 53% of girls were already working while only 44% of the boys were working at the same age (Hill, 2010). At the age of ten, the two genders were at the same percentage as far as working was concerned. Adult jobs also began earlier for the girls as opposed to the boys. At the age of 14 years, 71% of the girls were doing adult jobs. At the same age, only 63% of the boys were working. It is also noted that girls were more productive than the boys especially in such chores as picking cotton by the age of 17 years. This happened because girls matured faster than the boys among the slaves did. At adolescent, the girls had a hard task adapting to the roles in the field than the boys. This was especially because the girls spent most of their earlier time in the houses, not in the field. Statistics indicate that more girls fell into stress at this age than boys did (Barry, 1996).
Women who were slaves were most times subjected to the unskilled jobs. Only 20% of the women were able to get skilled or semiskilled jobs. This mainly involved nursing, while others were tailors. The larger percentage of the women mainly found themselves tending the fields. The men, however, tended to get more chances of skilled and semiskilled labor opportunities (Hill, 2010). A majority of men, 75%, performed field jobs while 25% of the men were artisans who were skilled. The skilled men were managers, coaches, carpenters, and blacksmith.
There were also semiskilled labors among the men who were more than the women were. Older slaves were normally transferred to less demanding jobs as opposed to younger slaves. The time for transfer mainly ranged between 30 to 50 years (Bronski, 2011).The amount of time and effort required from slaves mainly affected other aspects of their lives. The affected aspects included their family interactions, their recreation opportunities, and their health. They were not enthusiastic about recreation because they were extremely tired from the slave labor (Hill, 2010). It is also notable that the women grew faster in height than men did. This is associated with the fact that men were exposed to strenuous roles as opposed to women. The strenuous jobs included plowing, which strained the men.
The women who were slaves had different identities. Women who worked in the fields had different identities with those who worked indoors. Classes developed among the slaves based on their incomes and the identities, which they formed. Some slave women who worked as house helps and nannies tended to adopt the behaviors of their white masters. They tried to make their children behave like those of their master’s. This, in turn, made them feel superior as opposed to other slaves (Barry, 1996). The black women worked for low pay, and they were normally exposed to sexual harassment.
The African women who were married to men of stature withdrew from working in the fields. They did this to concentrate raising their families. The whites criticized these women, as they were not supposed to practice their womanhood. To the whites the blacks were nothing but slaves. These women withdrew to protect themselves from sexual harassment. However, not many women could withdraw. This was because the salaries from the men could not support the families, as acutely few formal opportunities existed (Moitt, 2001).
More than this, the laws that were set colonially did not protect the African American women from statutory rape. The law prohibited Indians and blacks from defending themselves against any abuse from the whites. The slaves who dared defend themselves were severely beaten by their masters or mistresses. If any black woman dared date a white, she was severely punished. The female workers were considered as seducers to the white men. If one bore a white child, the child also became a slave as it took the heritage of the mother (Moitt, 2001).
The relationships that existed included brutal rape to the girls and women by the white masters. In these instances, a lot of violence was involved. The whites threatened the girls and young women. These threats included added work to the girls. There were also promises of freedom if they accepted the sexual offers. It is, however, notable that those promises held no water. Other relationships involved emotional involvement (Nakano, 2011).
The slave women normally saw their children as a way of extending their identities. This was clear due to the naming system that was used by the slaves. They mothers named their children after themselves or other close relations. It is evident that the slaves valued their children. Many of them refused to run from slavery due to the fact they could not leave their children (Hill, 2010). In some instances, the masters would sell the slaves children. The slaves who loved their children took this particularly badly. The women sometimes defied their masters especially when in the line of protecting their children (Nakano, 2011).
The women spent a sizeable amount of their time teaching morals to their children. They passed on the qualities that were considered upright to their offspring. The slave women enjoyed raising their children immensely much. The mothers especially shielded their daughter’s from sexual activities. The women shared the same punishments and miseries as the men. They were not protected, but they were subjected to misery.
The field workers were treated equally with the animals in the white farms. This means they survived at a real subsistence level. The women who worked in the fields suffered a very high mortality rate, as opposed to workers in other sections. They produced their food to supplement the diet provided by the masters. They did this on the provision ground, and this improved their health (Nakano, 2011).