Co-Conspirators: 40% Of American Slave Owners Were White Women With Direct Economic Investment

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
White Women Slave Owners
Photo via Wiki Commons: Harper’s Weekly, 1876 August 193, p. 677 Author: Harper’s Weekly

A new book reveals that white women not only owned slaves, but also had a vested economic interest in keeping the wretched institution intact. In “They Were Her Property: White Women As Slave Owners in the American South,” historian and UC Berkeley professor Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers details how some white women owned slaves before marriage and separately from their husbands.

Jones-Rogers’ groundbreaking book debunks the long-held belief that white women were weak-willed and submissive spouses only complicit with slavery due to patriarchy, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. It makes the argument that white women not only participated in slavery, but thrived off of it and defended it passionately.

According to Jones, for white women, “slavery was their freedom. They created freedom for themselves by actively emerging and investing in the economy of slavery and keeping African Americans in captivity.”

The book further states white women “hired, purchased, disciplined, managed and sold enslaved people, including separating children from their parents, across the Old South,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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‘They Were Her Property’ is the first of its kind to delve so deeply into “one of the slave trade’s best kept secrets, said the New York Times. Jones-Rogers told the Times many historians missed white women’s true scope in slavery because “they have not been listening to the right people.”

While Jones-Rogers drew her material from traditional sources like letters and documents obtained from the slavery era, she focused heavily on interviews done by the Federal Writers Project that included the testimonies of former slaves.

“Sometimes they (white women) were more effective at slave management or they used more brutal methods of discipline than their husbands did,” Jones-Rogers wrote. “And through it all, they were not passive bystanders … They were co-conspirators.”

Released in February, the book has received great reviews and an astounding response from readers.