ARTICLE: Webster on Northern Black Womanhood in the Nineteenth Century

Crystal Lynn Webster, “In Pursuit of Autonomous Womanhood: Nineteenth-Century Black Motherhood in the U.S. North.” Slavery & Abolition 38, no. 2 (April 3, 2017): 425–40.


“African Americans who resided in the antebellum North were subjected to forms of disenfranchisement that informed their political activism. These experiences were especially pronounced for black women whose identities existed at the intersections of race and gender, and black children who in some cases remained enslaved and indentured beyond their parents. The development of discourse on Northern black motherhood, produced in nineteenth-century black print culture and black women’s activism, countered indeterminate conditions of Northern freedom by promoting the empowering potential of black maternal authority.”

Source: In pursuit of autonomous womanhood: nineteenth-century black motherhood in the U.S. North: Slavery & Abolition: Vol 38, No 2

Slaves Waiting to be Sold, Richmond, Virginia, 1853 | The Illustrated London News (Sept. 27, 1856), vol. 29, p. 315. | Caption, “Slaves waiting for sale, Virginia.” An engraving taken from an eyewitness sketch by the English artist, Eyre Crowe who observed this scene on March 3, 1853. Crowe reports that the sketch “was took on the spot, for which we narrowly escaped . . . being . . . ignominiously expelled. A brood of young ones are seen sitting on a rude bench, nestling close to their mother, who clasps the youngest in her embrace . . . . The auctioneer hauls them up one after the other to his stand, and so are they daily consigned to an unknown fate” (p. 314). See also image NW0276. The engraving published in the ILN was cropped from a larger sketch done by Crowe. This sketch appears in his travel account of the United States which he visited from October 1852 to April 1853, With Thackeray in America (New York, 1893), p. 132. The book also includes additional details on the sale, after which, Crowe writes, aOoewe saw the usual exodus of negro slaves, marched under escort of their new owners across the town to the railway station, where they took places, and went South (p. 136). (Thanks to Maurie McInnis for her assistance with this and other images by Crowe.) as shown on, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

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