The Sexual Assault And Exploitation Of Enslaved Men In America

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
enslaved men
Historical court documents show that promises of freedom may have been used to entice enslaved Black men into sexual contact with white women. Image: John Greenleaf Whittier/Wikimedia Commons

In one of the most detailed studies of sexual violence against enslaved men, Thomas A. Foster explained in his book, “Rethinking Rufus: Sexual Violations of Enslaved Men“, how promises of freedom may have been used to entice enslaved Black men into sexual contact with white women.

Court documents showed how relations between white women and enslaved men were skewed in power terms, with the women using their power to force these Black men into situations they would not have wanted to be in freely, according to an excerpt from the book published by The Institute of the Black World 21st Century.

Taking advantage of enslaved men

Promises of freedom, threats of being sold and other punishments including physical harm forced enslaved men into “improper intimacy” and engaging in illegal acts like stealing.

One former slave described his mistress whipping him: “Mr. Hammans was a very severe and cruel master, and his wife still worse; she used to tie me up and flog me while naked.”

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All the anecdotes cited in “Rethinking Rufus: Sexual Violations of Enslaved Men” took place in the context of servitude and highlighted the power of white women over enslaved Black men.

Wives and daughters of slaveowners who formed these sexual relationships took advantage of their position within the slave system.

While white women could not vote or own property under their name before the Civil War, they could own enslaved people just like white men, according to slavery historians.