Byrd on Black Women, Slavery, and Silences of the Past | @AAIHS

At AAIHS, Brandon Byrd on black women and resistance during the period of slavery:

“There is an obvious discrepancy between these two narratives about Queen Victoria. In accordance with the “faithful slave” trope so intertwined with Lost Cause ideology, the Press-Citizen characterized Queen Victoria as a “humble soul,” a religious “ex-slave” in the same mold as Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom. Moreover, the Press-Citizen assigned her an age (66) and number of years spent enslaved (22) that conveniently placed her date of emancipation after the Civil War. White readers who still possessed what David Blight calls an “emancipationist vision” of the Civil War could thus assign the Union Army credit for Queen Victoria’s freedom. Her militancy was silenced.

“My alternative narrative about Queen Victoria departs from those fictions. It suggests that Queen Victoria resisted bearing children during slavery. That childlessness might have made her escape more viable. After making the decision to run (a decision typically more available to enslaved men) Queen Victoria returned to liberate Julius. Those actions help us understand her later choice to join countless other freedwomen and refrain from menial labor. They also encourage us to see her favorite song—”Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”—as evidence that her spirituality was inseparable from her rebelliousness. My Queen Victoria worshipped a God who demanded resistance….”

Read it all: Black Women, Slavery, and Silences of the Past

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