Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2012

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Heather Stur

Advisor Department



Despite the vast amount of research focused on slavery and the American South, studies focusing solely on the black female’s experience during this time period are a fairly recent development. In the existing literature, these women have been painted a helpless victim caught in the wrath of white men, black men, and even white women. This study presents the stories of black women courageously resisting oppression both while enslaved and just after emancipation from 1830 to 1890. The analysis of a handful of slave narratives taken by the Worker’s Progress Administration in the 1930s and 1940s established that because black women were given specific gender roles to abide by, they also faced specific forms of mental and physical abuse. When they fought back, they became an inspiration for other slaves of both genders and they gained the attention of the one group of people that could truly emancipate them: white men. These narratives and accounts of black women standing up for themselves and their loved ones not only prove that they were willing to fight for equality, but also that they did not accept being considered the lowest member of society. This research contributes to the historical conversation on black women’s history, slavery, and gender issues in the American South.