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The Devil's Lane: Sex and Race in the Early…

The Devil's Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South

by Catherine Clinton

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DL text: Indian Foremothers by Peter Wallenstein
Race, Sex, Slavery and Freedom discussion

Multiply located across racial groups
1. “Being multi-racial is a question of which racial category is more dominant physically than any other category”—historically, dominant membership of a specific racial category mattered because it ensured membership rights and restrictions belonging to that racial group.
Featherstone talks about Indians never being slaves vs. blacks always being slaves. Here is a racial conflict for people who had no choice to racially identify as black in the Upper South.
Pretty much Indian ancestry and not whiteness assured Featherstone her “free birth and free life,” in the 1850s
Despite African ancestry—if a group claimed “Indian Foremothers” they were free in Virginia.

-Race starts out biological and adjusts to fit societal views.
This is true because racial categories are complex and legislature in Virginia in 1662 defines how children of Black Women and White men aren’t born into freedom. They receive their mother’s legacy of imprisonment and how women’s status was subjugated beneath men’s.
-Thus, slave women would have slave children regardless of who the father is and contrary-wise white women would have free children, again no matter who the father is (58).
Here because of the Virginia legislature men aren’t kept to the same laws as women. This creates a social inequity between women’s racial categories and men’s, proving the importance of women’s to be greater than men in order to tolerate women.
The laws condoned ostracism of white women who had sex with black men and gave birth to mixed children for five years.
-The law didn’t include women who had children with Indian fathers. In this way women’s ability to name membership in multiple racial categories (e.g. women born to white women and Indian men) aren’t as able to name their presence in these categories as women who are punished for birth of mulattos. It was negative for either woman.
1. What is the argument or the theme of the reading? A common theme that both Gilispie and Wallenstein share is the sexual politics of race and gender.
Women’s citizenship is subject to increase with rights or restrictions based on sex and race. White women having sex with black men went against the laws in Virginia commonwealth in the late eighteenth century. During this time period, unstable boundaries of racial and ethnic difference were erected . Much of the instability, though, emphasizes the laws, court cases, social science, and sensationalized mass media that structured interracial sex and marriage
as illicit, the multifaceted surveillance that restricted sexual behavior, and the sexual vulnerability and stigmatization of various subjugated groups
The author challenges how race is socially complex, meaning that when an individual historically receives a racial label because of the inheritance of his mother or the matrilineal decendance, this label contains artificiality and permeability of political borders.

1. Who did the burden of proof fall on and why, when it came to proving whether a mixed individual was free or subject to endure slavery?
2. Who were the “true emancipators” outlined by Wallenstein? Why? What if (any) were the discrepancies between those distinctive legal cases of members claiming to have true Indian ancestry?
3. How did race start out as a biological concept and adjust to fit the societal lens of the late 1790s? (Hint: describe the process of racial identification depending upon one’s racial inheritance from the mother that was legalized/ legitimized at the time).
4. How was slavery in Virginia redefined based on dislike of blacks and of indifference of native American Indians from 1780-1810?
5. What three ways did non-white Virginians grow demographically in the late eighteenth century?
6. Based on how the non-white Virginia population grew, how was this growth both a social victory and a defeat to blacks in the South?
7. The Wallenstein reading about Virginia commonwealth, which means “government based on the common consent of the people,” looks closely at a double-standard. How, then, were laws constructed to criminalize women and pardon men in regards sexual expression with mixed-blooded partners?
8. According to specific examples given by Carson and also by Wallenstein how were the effects of colonialism responsible for the exploitation of women, collectively, when it came to the moral economy?
9. Was the deerskin trade good or bad as an effect of colonialism for women? Why or why not?
10. How is sewing kernels of green corn (an act done by women) a relevant parallel to the reinforcement of gender subordination for bi-racial women, who identified as “Indian” both in the lower and upper regions of the South during the late 1700s? (Hint: for this question discuss the connection of how a woman’s worth is equated).
11. How did women lack authority when it came to receiving lands that were promised to them from the colonists? ( )
  nieva21 | Oct 10, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195112431, Paperback)

Focusing on matters of race and sex and the intersection of the two, this collection of nearly 20 essays covers the American South for a period of about 200 years ending in 1808. The focus is scholarly, but the book is accessible to history buffs and general readers alike. (The title comes from a term used to describe land in dispute in the colonial South.) In one essay, "The Facts Speak Loudly Enough," Peter H. Woods tells the shocking story of the massacre of several dozen blacks in Charleston, South Carolina, on the eve of the American Revolution. Another, Paul Finkelman's "Crimes of Love, Misdemeanors of Passion: The Regulation of Race and Sex in the Colonial South," explores the ways in which authorities tried to proscribe miscegenation in Virginia from the 1600s on, and notes one practical reason that there has always been race mixing in America: in the 1630s, the ratio of male immigrants to female in Virginia was 6-1.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Land contested over by settlers in the early South was named "the devil's lane" with violence often befalling those who ventured there. These essays on sexuality, race and gender in the South from the 17th to 19th century, explore legal history through race, crime, punishment and slander.… (more)

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