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Fertility was key to value of enslaved women

“In 1737, an observer in North Carolina suggested that planters were quite mindful of enslaved women’s reproductive value, writing that ‘a numberous¬† Issue [is] esteemed the greatest Riches in this country.’ He went on to suggest that slaveowners interfered in the lives of enslaved couples by obliging women to take a ‘second, third, fourth, fifth and more Husbands or Bedfellows’ if children did not appear after ‘a year or two.’ …

“Fertility here, as elsewhere, was perceived to be located in the body of the fruitful or fruitless woman, whose multiple husbands bore no reproductive responsibility. Thus, it was enslaved women who bore the burden and pain of slaveowners’ clumsy manipulations and scrutiny.”

– From “Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery” by Jennifer L. Morgan (2004)