Plight of Women and African Americans in America as Marginalized Groups in Antebellum Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1470 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Black Studies

Antebellum America

The Plight of women and African-Americans as Marginalized Groups in Antebellum America

Women and African-Americans represented two groups with limited rights in antebellum America. Socially, both were considered to have a role and a place. Yet neither had complete rights when compared with white men in the same society. As the North and the South became increasingly sectionalized, the expectations of and placed on both groups began to change. Despite this, both women and African-Americans were marginalized by both Northern and Southern society for the entirety of the antebellum period. The marginalization of blacks and women allowed for a social hierarchy wherein every member of society had a clear place.

In the antebellum era, American society was based upon a number of social constructs (Dorsey, 77). These constructs -- religion, ideology, and culture -- formed the laws and social norms relevant to and individual's rights. Because the laws were a reflection of culture and ideology, those laws and norms developed differently in the North and the South.

Culturally, the South was an agricultural society, based on the growth of cotton and other crops. Though the large plantation was the exception rather than the norm, the basis of the overall society stood on the "free" labor of slaves. Not only did slave ownership allow for agriculture to progress but it allowed for an easily understood hierarchy wherein white individuals had the power and African-Americans were beneath them (Dorsey 77).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Plight of Women and African Americans in America as Marginalized Groups in Antebellum America Assignment

This hierarchy allowed even poor white men who did not have any slaves or servants to feel socially elevated in the marginalized society (Dorsey, 77). This same idea was likely part of the relationships between white women and African-Americans, and African-American men and women. For example, white women who had little power compared to their husbands likely felt powerful in relation to their slaves or to other African-Americans. This is evident in the actions of the minister's wife in the story of James Mars: "The Minister's wife told my father if she could only had him South, where she could have at her call a half dozen men, she would have him stripped and flogged until he was cut in strings, and see if he would do as she bid him" (Mars, 5). The Minster's wife is seeking control in a situation where she has little or none. White women were somewhere in the middle of the social construction, as they did not hold as many rights as men and yet were not on par with free or slave African-Americans; white women could be socially active, especially in religious and sometimes political functions, whereas most African-Americans could not (Dorsey, 77).

The availability of social function to white women was not unlike the availability of religion to African-Americans. Even on slave plantations slave owners considered it important to impress Christian values on their slaves. In James Mars' exploit, he explains how the minister who had owner his parents had arranged and carried out their marriage so that they could live a Christian life (3-5). That the slave-owners felt any importance in this is particularly interesting, in that Mars' mother already had a child by a previous white owner (Mars, 4). Previous sexual relationships or children would have been unacceptable in a white women looking to marry; however, the sexualization of African-American women allowed white individuals to look the other way.

African-American women were on the lowest rung of the social ladder. They held no power, being both socially and sexually at the whim of their husbands and owners. African-American women served their husbands or masters in a similar fashion as white women. Overall, "the work performed by slaves for their families... conformed to traditional white norms about conventional gender roles" (West, 4). Though some African-American women were recognized as important in their important domestic roles in the home, they were less able than even white women to step outside of those roles (West, 1-5).

African-American women were in a particularly difficult position socially. Unlike white women they were not expected to openly rally for their men and families, as this activity would have been too openly social. Instead, they were expected to be submissive to everyone: white men, white women, African-American men, and even white children to some extent (West, 3-4). Additionally, women were at great risk if they supported men who were stepping outside of the boundaries of their role as slave or freedman; even… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Plight of Women and African Americans in America as Marginalized Groups in Antebellum" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Plight of Women and African Americans in America as Marginalized Groups in Antebellum.  (2007, May 8).  Retrieved May 30, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Plight of Women and African Americans in America as Marginalized Groups in Antebellum."  8 May 2007.  Web.  30 May 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Plight of Women and African Americans in America as Marginalized Groups in Antebellum."  May 8, 2007.  Accessed May 30, 2020.