Date of Award

Summer 2013

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Committee Chair

Max Grivno

Committee Chair Department

History

Committee Member 2

Louis Kyriakadous

Committee Member 2 Department

History

Committee Member 3

Heather Stur

Committee Member 3 Department

History

Abstract

In the sugar parishes of Louisiana, enslaved people endured high mortality rates and declining populations at the height of the harsh slave regime in the mid-twentieth century. This resulted from regional disease, brutal working conditions, and a skewed sex ratio where enslaved men consistently outnumbered enslaved women. Following emancipation, freedwomen attempted to rebuild their families and community amid the tumultuous environment that defined the sugar parishes. This thesis utilizes Freedmen's Bureau records, American Missionary Association correspondence, census data, and local newspapers to argue that freedwomen sought to gain control over their labor, bodies, relationships, and children in the postbellum era as they were legally free from slavery's constraints. By building upon both Richard Follett's and John Rodrigue's studies of Louisiana's sugar parishes, this thesis places African American women's experiences at the forefront of the region's historiography, where women have been noticeably absent. Through an analysis of labor complaints and domestic disputes filed by freedwomen in the 1860s, this study illustrates that freedwomen were active participants in the transition from slavery to freedom in Louisiana's sugar country.

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