For many enslaved African Americans, one of the cruelest hardships they endured was sexual abuse by the slave- holders, overseers, and other white men and women whose power to dominate them was complete. Enslaved women were forced to submit to their masters’ sexual advances, perhaps bearing children who would engender the rage of a master’s wife, and from whom they might be separated forever as a result. Masters forcibly paired “good breeders” to produce strong children they could sell at a high price. Resistance brought severe punishment, often death. “I know these facts will seem too awful to relate,” warns former slave William J. Anderson in his 1857 narrative, “. . . as they are some of the real ‘dark deeds of American Slavery.’”
Below is another account…
The slave traders would buy young and able farm men and well developed young girls with fine physique to barter and sell. They would bring them to the taverns where there would be the buyers and traders, display them and offer them for sale. At one of these gatherings a colored girl, a mulatto of fine stature and good looks, was put on sale. She was of high spirits and determined disposition. At night she was taken by the trader to his room to satisfy his bestial nature. She could not be coerced or forced, so she was attacked by him. In the struggle she grabbed a knife and with it, she sterilized him and from the result of injury he died the next day. She was charged with murder. Gen. Butler, hearing of it, sent troops to Charles County [Maryland] to protect her, they brought her to to Baltimore, later she was taken to Washington where she was set free. . . This attack was the result of being good looking, for which many a poor girl in Charles County paid the price. There are several cases I could mention, but they are distasteful to me. . . .
There was a doctor in the neighborhood who bought a girl and installed her on the place for his own use, his wife hearing it severely beat her. One day her little child was playing in the yard. It fell head down in a post hole filled with water and drowned. His wife left him; afterward she said it was an affliction put on her husband for his sins.
Let me explain to you very plain without prejudice one way or the other, I have had many opportunities, a chance to watch white men and women in my long career, colored women have many hard battles to fight to protect themselves from assault by employers, white male servants or by white men, many times not being able to protect themselves, in fear of losing their positions. Then on the other hand they were subjected to many impositions by the women of the household through woman’s jealousy.
RICHARD MACKS, enslaved in Maryland, interviewed 1937 [WPA Slave Narrative Project