Slave mothers and white fathers: Defining family and status in late colonial Cuba

  • Morrison K
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Abstract

his paper outlines the mechanisms used to position the offspring of slave women and white men at various points within late nineteenth-century Cuba's racial hierarchy. The reproductive choices available to these parents allowed for small, but significant, transformations to the existing patterns of race and challenged the social separation that typically under girded African slavery in the Americas. As white men mated with black and mulatta women, they were critical agents in the initial determination of their children's status–as slave, free, mulatto, or even white. This definitional flexibility fostered an unintended corruption of the very meaning of whiteness. Similarly, through mating with white men, enslaved women exercised a degree of procreative choice, despite their subjugated condition. In acknowledging the range of rape, concubinage, and marriage exercised between slave women and white men, this paper highlights the important links between reproductive practices and the social construction of race.

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Authors

  • Karen Y. Morrison

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