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The Role of African American Women 1803-1877
The bigger part of the 19th century was a period of great turmoil in American history, and African American women had a significant role in the developments. However, few literatures exist about African American women’s role in the antebellum, the second wave of great awakening, and the American Revolution war as major events in America 19th century. Women had remained marginalized with little participation in economic activities outside the home environment. The patriarchal society made women left out of the political, economic, and social spheres of society. In general, women were constrained to play domestic roles such as child-rearing, teaching morals to family, and taking care of the men (DeLuzio, 2019). African American women were in a more disadvantaged position having to struggle with the institution of slavery. African American women had no right to vote, political participation, economic liberation and forced to work as slaves to their white masters. The African women’s roles remained largely in assisting the white women in executing their domestic roles while some also worked in the south’s extensive agricultural plantations.
However, a lack of literature does not mean that African American women were silent and blind to the political and social events. They played a monumental role in the second great awakening alongside the Anglo-American women in the clamor to expand women’s rights beyond the domestic roles (Weisenfeld, 2010). Women evangelists challenged the existing stereotypical domestic roles of women and advocated for women recognition in public spheres such as voting rights, economical and more voice in social issues. African American women joined the second awakening movement as it also advocated for the abolition of slavery. Many Christian women involving the African women converts started examining the Bible scriptures that said all men are created equal before God (Worth & Schwarz, 2016). The evangelical principles then challenged women’s oppression, including the inequalities brought by African American women’s enslavement.
African American women also played a highly visible role during the civil war as they supported the union in securing their freedom. During the civil war, they escaped from slavery and acted as spies for union soldiers in the south as they executed domestic roles. Black women staged and planned slave rebellions to help the union cause. They actively engaged in civil war as scouts and assisted the union soldiers with disclosing properties, weaponry, and properties from the confederates military (Forbes, 2013). During the reconstruction era, African American women actively engaged in activism through black civil rights to secure equality after the civil war. After the abolition of slavery, women actively involved in advocating for the African American social inclusion in the economic, social, and political participation.
African American women faced severe marginalization than Anglo-American or Mexican Americans because they had to deal with slavery and racial discrimination, and women marginalization. The racism and slavery compounded the African American troubles making her more disadvantaged in education, poverty, sexual abuse, and forced labor (Berry & Alford, 2012). Anglo-American women had higher social class status; thus, their grievances would receive better attention than African slaves with no right. However, some issues like lack of educational opportunities, property rights, voting rights, economic suppression, and the abolition of slavery became a unifying factor to white, Mexican, and African American women (Worth & Schwarz, 2016). Their issues converged around discrimination based on gender, and hence most of the time, they supported the course regardless of their race. The geographical and regional locations of women substantially impact historical injustices that disadvantage some over others. For instance, due to slavery, African American women may have less educational attainment, low income, and high unemployment levels compared to their white counterparts. Women of color’s historical experiences are traumatic and bring underlying unresolved social, economic, and political issues affecting their social, cultural, and economic well-being.
Berry, D., & Alford, D. (2012). Enslaved Women in America: An Encyclopedia. Westport: ABC-CLIO.
DeLuzio, C. (2019). Women’s Rights: People and Perspectives. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Forbes, E. (2013). African American women during the civil war. London, Routledge.
Weisenfeld, J. (2010). African American women and Christian activism: New York’s Black YWCA, 1905-1945. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press
Worth, R., & Schwarz, P. (2016). African Americans during Reconstruction. New York: Chelsea House Pub.