Black History Fun Fact Friday – Marital Relationships During Slavery

The inspiration for today’s topic comes from a heated discussion ongoing from an episode of The Real. The Real is a talk show that prides itself on being centered on discussions on current events, fashion, family, relationships, and celebrity news. The show’s host includes Jeannie Mai, Adrienne Bailon, Tamera Mowry-Housely, Loni Love, and now Amanda Seals. The show’s hook is presenting real topics, having real discussions, and giving very real opinions. But some audiences do not find the show to be as authentic as it prides itself to be and Loni’s comments don’t help.

Co-host Loni Love found herself in some hot water over her comments about Black men, cheating, and slavery. Here is a clip of what was said:

Whether you agree with Loni or not her comment opened the door for further discussion on this topic. I would like to use it as the catalyst for exploring what relationships were like for enslaved men and women and if there is any truth in Loni’s statement.

Questions to ponder as you read:

  1. Should we isolate Black men as cheaters who use money and power to take advantage of women?
  1. Is it fair to use slavery to support the theory that Black men, in particular, have a problem being faithful in relationships?
  1. Are we descendants of slaves? Or are we descendants of people who were enslaved?

Family separation became increasingly common during the antebellum period and being sold on the New Year was a common occurrence. Widely known as “Hiring Day” — or “Heartbreak Day,” as the Black abolitionist journalist William Cooper Nell described it — enslaved people spent New Year’s Eve waiting, wondering if their owners would rent them out to someone else, which would split up their families. (Waxman, O, 2019) “Hiring Day” was part of the larger economic cycle in which most debts were collected and settled on New Year Day,” says Alexis McCrossen, an expert on the history of New Year Eve and New Year Day and a professor of history at Southern Methodist University, who writes about Hiring Day in her forthcoming book Time’s Touchstone: The New Year in American Life.

Enslaved people were bought and sold like cattle and auctioneers appraised women based on their ability to reproduce. Women who birthed children during slavery were called “breeders,” and their children were referred to as the “increase.” The mother and father of the “increase,” could have been a legitimate couple or they could have been forced together.

Black people were not people in this sense, they were commodities. Their bodies had a price tag. Slave-masters/owners could mortgage, loan, trade, or exchange the enslaved body. “The nature of exchanging enslaved people meant that this seller was open to the idea of getting them back, perhaps after the child reached a certain age and the mother was no longer breastfeeding.” (Berry, D, pp 20)

Enslaved men, women, and children incurred interest and even in death the enslaved body was traded and sold, many of them ending up on the tables of medical schools for hands-on medical research. Slave farms existed, where Black men and women were raped and forced to have sex with one another. The South,” writes Sublettes, co-author of The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry “did not only produce tobacco, rice, sugar, and cotton as commodities for sale; it produced people.”

“Because slaves were property, Southern slave owners could mortgage them to banks and then the banks could package the mortgages into bonds and sell the bonds to anyone anywhere in the world, even where slavery was illegal. Thomas Jefferson bragged to George Washington that the birth of black children was increasing Virginia’s capital stock by four percent annually.”

– The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry

Enslaved couples were not married or in a relationship in the same way men and women are married or in a relationship today. Since this is a private area of the enslaved life, it’s difficult for historians to say for certain how these relationships worked or did not work.

“Research into the intimate areas of slaves’ lives has proven problematic for historians because the typicality of private sentiments is always hard to establish, and within slave testimony such as the WPA narratives, the reference to issues of marital discord, abuse, or adultery is rare.”

Emily West (2004) Tensions, tempers, and temptations: marital discord among slaves in antebellum South Carolina, American Nineteenth Century History, 5:2, 1-18, DOI: 10.1080/1466465042000257837

What we know is that it was illegal for Blacks to marry in the traditional sense, that many of them were forced together for breeding, and that some enslaved couples did not live on the same plantation. There’s something else we know: due to the complex and brutal system of slavery, relationship bonds between black men and women (that weren’t forced or instituted by the slave owner) were strong. “Marital ties created bonds that warrant attention equal to the bonds of motherhood.” (Berry)

Enslaved couples who married under slavery loved each other deeply because there was no guarantee they wouldn’t be sold away from one another. The story of Tamar, an enslaved woman from Camden County, North Carolina, ran away several times, was sold several times, and had her children sold multiple times. According to her brother’s testimony, Tamar “traveled by night, and hid herself in the woods.” (Berry) While in hiding she had more children with her husband. Pregnancy, in this case, could have resulted from genuine love and marital affairs.

In The “Chords of Love: Legalizing Black Marital and Family Rights in Postwar Texas” Crouch tells the story of Fannie, a slave woman who wrote a loving letter to her husband. “I haven’t forgot you,” she writes, “nor I never will forget you as long as the world stands.” (Crouch, B, Journal of African American History)

“…it’s not across the board because what is happening is that we are still dealing with the point of slavery. And we are descendants of slavery and because our families were broken up…” – Loni Love

Is there a correlation between a Black man who cheats, and the enslaved Black man who was forced to have sex with and impregnate lots of women without attachment or commitment? Has this trauma passed down through generations caused Black men to perpetuate similar behaviors as was required during slavery? Is this what Loni Love of The Real was trying to communicate?

Certainly, we have all inherited both good and toxic behaviors from our ancestors in one way or another. To this day many Black families say they eat pork because “at slavery times that’s all we had to eat, so we made food taste good by trying things out,” says Big Mama on the 1997 movie Soul Food.

But Black people aren’t the only people who eat pork or are known for eating pork (and eating like you did when you were enslaved is not wise). 

“Cheating is a matter of choice. And when you cheat it is a choice that you as a man are making to feed your ego. It has nothing to do with your boys not being around. It has nothing to do with men working too hard. It’s not a matter of race. Men make choices and cheating is always a poor choice because it’s ego-driven.”

– Charlamagne tha God

While there are certainly questionable actions we’ve picked up from being an enslaved people, there is no evidence that directly links Black men cheating to slavery. Cheating is not a trauma-based response from slavery that causes Black men to be untrustworthy and unfaithful more than any other race. Men and women of all races and backgrounds make poor choices that cause them to cheat for one reason or another.

What further complicates things is that Adrienne adds that this is true “across the board,” which is a good point. This could have been an opportunity for further clarity, historical context, and teaching but Loni cuts her off, further clarifying her point that she is specifically talking about Black people and in particular, Black men:

“No, it’s not across the board because what is happening is that we are still dealing with the point of slavery. And we are descendants of slavery and because our families were broken up we still do not have a idea of how to have…together, families were broken up…”

We are not descendants of slavery.

We are the descendants of a people who were enslaved.

If it’s true that because of slavery Black men struggle with fidelity, then we also have to say something about the white slave masters who raped and forced black men and women to breed. And we have to talk about the white slaveowners who cheated on their white wives with black women.

Black men during slavery did not have the same capacity to cheat as men and women have today. Marriage during slavery did not mean the couple could exercise fidelity because they did not have a right to their own bodies. While married, the wife may have had children by the master after being raped by him and the husband could have also fathered more children through force. The only guarantee was the love each had for one another and the hope that they could see each other as often as was allowed and cultivate some sense of normalcy for their families (as normal as was possible under slavery).

Is it fair to say, “lots of white men beat their wives because they are the descendants of slave-owners and masters who beat their slaves?” Is it ever fair to make generalizations about a group of people, gender or race?

Imagine the frustration of being a Black man in America, honorable and striving only to look and see your own woman (The Black Woman) consistently publicly declare to the world that you are not capable of doing right.

“Black men everyday are dealing with our character being shamed.”

– Willie D

If we say “black men don’t know how to be faithful because we are still dealing with the point of slavery” we first miseducate people on the history of our enslavement. Next, we alienate Black men, assume Black women and other races of people (across the board) don’t cheat, and throw Black men under the bus.


Books I recommend for further research on Slave Breeding and Blacks used as Commodities: 

The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry by Ned and Constance Sublette

The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation by Daina Ramey Berry

Medical Apartheid: The Dark Experimentation on Blacks from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

Nourish Your Offline Relationships

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Would you know if your friend is feeling down if he/she didn’t post about it? Would you know when his/her birthday was if Facebook didn’t tell you? Would you have the information necessary to congratulate those you love on their achievements, like weddings, and graduations if they didn’t post about it?

How well do we know the people we call friends?

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and birthdays always have me thinking about relationships and social media. A few years back I had deactivated my Facebook a few days before my birthday. I didn’t feel like being bothered with accolades from people who hadn’t spoken to me since my last birthday. An interesting thing happens when I do this: The people who know me most will call or text me. Then, at the conclusion of the day I’ll post something on social and out of the woods will come those who thought they knew me and yet didn’t know something as basic as the date of my birth.

I had one person I considered a sister call me three days after my thirtieth birthday. There’s no harm in this. I’m not that sensitive. People don’t have to stop their lives for me. Reach out when you can. What I found odd is not that she called three days later. What was odd is that she thought she had called on my actual birthday. I found this odd because I thought we were closer than that. I had known the woman over ten years. We had lived with one another at some point, interacted with one another’s children, dined together, laughed, and had deep conversations. This wasn’t just any sister, this was someone I thought knew me well. Well enough to know my birthday is not May 29th. It doesn’t surprise me that today, we are no longer in touch.

But don’t get distracted. This is not about birthdays.

This is about the work we put or do not put into relationships now that Social Media automates our lives. Now that there is “an app for that” some of us have become lazy in our interactions with one another.

I had the pleasure of visiting Griffin High School last weekend. I spoke to four classes of tenth and eleventh graders about writing, publishing, and my journey as an author. I love young people. I love their innocence and straightforwardness. I love their non-sugarcoating questions. Many of them asked me if I “made a lot of money,” and “how do I deal with criticism?” It swelled my heart to have the pleasure of being there with them. One student asked me if I thought the ebooks would overtake paperbacks. I told him that while digital has enhanced writing in many ways, I think the paperback is here to stay.

Digital books are convenient when I am eagerly expecting reading a book and I don’t want to wait for the paperback to come in the mail. It’s fast and quickly satisfying. Buying a paperback book costs more and takes patience but when it comes there is something immensely gratifying about holding the book in my hands and turning the pages. A feeling I do not get when I read digitally. When I can look in someone’s eyes and talk with them as I did last week, answer their questions, hear their concerns, sign their books organically, hug them and take pictures with them, nothing online can compare to that experience. That human experience.

Let’s say digital books represent social media and paperbacks represent real life. While it may be easier to wait for a notification to tell you that your loved ones are “feeling sad” it is much more productive to hear their voice on the other end of the phone or to give them an inspiring word through text. It is even more fruitful to see them face-to-face, to hear their voices, and look into their eyes. Some things you will never know about a person from their social media pages. If they are like me, quiet, reserved and private, you will only get the basics. Facebook may tell you when it’s my birthday or notify you when I am traveling or checking into a restaurant but for those personal, heartfelt thoughts? There’s no app for that.

Nourish your offline relationships. To nourish someone is to feed them deeply with something good for them. It means to give them something that will encourage them to live well. When you do this, you do not make assumptions about anything you see in the virtual reality. You are not easily offended because someone “didn’t tell you” they were traveling or gathering or graduating. You already know these things because you have built a real-life relationship with the people you love and that bond is stronger than any post, tag, or “Friendversary” that pops up in your Facebook memories.

Addict

Your scent lingers long after you’ve gone
I breathe you
Intoxicated by the integrity
of your soul
You leave and I lay in bed
inhaling your spirit
anxious for a whiff of your mind
hungry for a sip of your wisdom
dazed by the intellect of the lyrics you spew so effortlessly
I’m an addict for your words
Conversation is an intimacy
deeper than penetration
All these years
and we are closer
than when we first
met.

The Most Important Lesson I Learned in 11 Years of Publishing my Books

The little girl licked the wooden spoon that came with her ice cream.

“Bet you don’t know my mama name,” said Zoey, the five-year-old daughter of my husband’s client. We were relaxing on the couch, watching Netflix, and eating ice cream. Mine was gone, but she was still eating hers in that gross way children do, ice cream residue around her mouth and dripping from her fingers. I hoped she’d hurry and eat the thing before it melted all the way. It was a hot Sunday.

“Krissy,” I said proudly.

“Krissy what?”

Ole snap. What is the woman’s full name EC? Kristina? Kristy? Kristy Anne? Dang. I forgot the woman’s name. I’ve just been calling her Krissy or Kris like everyone else.

“You tell me,” I said playing it off.

Did I just reverse a question on a five-year-old? Yes. Yes, I did.

“Her name is…her name is…hmmm.”

Zoey seemed confused. I should have felt bad. I didn’t.

“My mommy’s name is—-”

“You don’t know it either,” I teased.

“I know she’s mommy but… just call her Krissy,” waved Zoey, licking the wooden spoon.

“Works for me,” I laughed.

This is what I was doing all day. Watching Netflix and talking to five-year-old Zoey and one-year-old Ziggy. Well, Ziggy and I did not exactly speak. There was something about he had to boo-boo and then he took a nap.

This was my weekend a few months ago. I went on a call with my husband. My husband is an HVAC (Heating, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration) and Maintenance Tech. As a Universally Certified technician, this means he can pretty much work on anything from a home AC system to a restaurant’s refrigeration system. This day, he was installing three toilets for this family, which meant that I would hang out with the wife. I rarely tag along with him on his calls, but he asked me to, so I went. I wasn’t doing anything, anyway.

We were there all day, and the family even made dinner for us. I learned the wife is from Chicago, my hometown, and the husband is originally from Jamaica. I enjoyed the Tilapia and Rice dishes served and had never had a whole fish before! Like, they fried the entire thing, one big slab. Boom. On your plate, ha!

My husband and his client spoke extensively about several things. Somewhere along the line, my book came up, and my husband gave him the link to my website along with links to other things they discussed. (I can assure you I was not an important part of the conversation.)

But when we got home later that evening, the husband sent my husband a text saying that he had purchased a copy of I am Soul.

“Aww,” I crooned. “That’s sweet. Tell him I said thank you.”

Now, for the most important part of the story….

How many times did I ask them to buy my book? Zero.

How many times did I discuss the book with the wife? Zero.

I did not bring up my work at all. What I did was play with the children, watch Netflix, and converse with the wife about food. We talked about why I couldn’t be a vegetarian and other things.

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my 11-year journey of publishing books is the importance of connecting with others and building genuine relationships.

People buy from people they have a connection with. This may be an already formed relationship/friendship, similar interests, personality, hobby, belief system, faith, passions, membership in the same groups, clubs, or similar spirits or vibes. These are the people who will support you. You don’t even have to force it, manipulate or chase. This means that relationships (directly or indirectly) is a major factor in selling books.

Just be yourself and let the vibe of that authenticity light the path, drawing the people to you who are meant to be in your presence.

Personal Examples

(because I am really not just talking out the side of my neck)

I met TV Personality Tinzley Bradford through my connection with Lisa W. Tetting. I turned around and sponsored, attended, and performed at Tinzley’s mixer last year and met TV One and Talk show host Chere Turner, CEO of Behind the Beauti Tenisha Bibbs, Singer, and CEO of Advudcate Arts LLC Cami Tippin, and 2x Best Selling Author Oliver T Reid. Then, I attended Oliver T Reid’s writer’s masterclass and met publisher Kelly Cole, also a 2x Best Selling Author and owner of one of the fastest growing Black-Owned Book Publishing companies in the U.S. I met Indie Bookstore owner Nia Damali through Indie Bookstore owner Marcus and through Nia I met Vivica A. Fox. A recent example is my meeting of Founder and Owner of B Infused Natural Detox Waters Brianna Arceneaux. Brianna is more like a niece as she is the sister of my brother-in-laws daughter. She is also the founder of a women’s organization Sagacious Women of Business, dedicated to mentoring young women in business and victims of sexual assault. She has been mad supportive of my work, and we intend to do much business together.

The point here is I have bought books by authors I didn’t know and have had my books purchased by people I didn’t know all due to the power of a single connection.

If you remember nothing else, remember:

Lifting others is how we lift ourselves.

p.s. The mother’s name was Kristina.


Don’t forget to preorder

Keep Yourself Full in ebook below!

Free with Kindle Unlimited

****

CLICK HERE TO PREORDER.

CLICK HERE TO MARK AS

WANT TO READ ON GOODREADS

(This book will be available in ebook and paperback
when it releases on August 6th)

About.

 

Keep Yourself Full is a spiritual handbook that focuses on our return to self-love. It is a reminder that self-care nourishes the quality of our lives and makes us fit to be of service to others. Through my testimony, I give examples of how we self-abuse and how that differs from self-love, why it is essential not to take things so personally, why we must establish and enforce healthy boundaries, and how assumptions kill relationships. We learn that by investing in our well-being spiritually, physically, mentally, and professionally, we can be of service fully to others. It cannot be ignored that we treat others how we feel about ourselves. When we realize that what we do to others, we are equally doing to ourselves, we can use this awareness to heal. By treating ourselves better, we treat others better. Keep Yourself Full is about keeping ourselves filled with love and all that is good so that we are overflowing with enough to share with everyone else.

CLICK HERE TO PREORDER.

When We Were Innocent

It took me a long time to realize Rick James Mary Jane song was about weed. For a long time, I thought Mary Jane was an actual woman he was in love with. Every time I heard the song I would smile, my heart melting at the sound of love. Even after watching the movie Friday, where there were obvious clues (such as the song being played as Smokey inhaled three joints at a time that day Craig got high for the first time), I still didn’t get it. After learning what the song was really about, I still liked it but it didn’t have the same happy feeling to it. I didn’t smoke weed so I couldn’t relate. I liked it better when I thought the song was about love.

I miss when we were innocent. Back before we really knew how messed up the world was. Back when the world was ours. Back when my Uncle told me and my siblings we couldn’t watch Bevis and Butthead. Back when the lyrics were still crafty enough to hide the “bad stuff” from the kids. When you didn’t know what the meanings behind the songs were, back when you had to be mature to know what it meant. I miss when we were innocent. Like before you really got to know someone. Back when you were besties just because. Back before we knew each other well enough to be aware of the other’s faults. When you meet someone for the first time there’s an innocence, a respect and a kindness you give because your mother taught you to be kind. As we get to know one another though, it seems like we are no longer as kind, as compassionate, or as merciful.

We take knowledge of the other person‘s mistakes as an invitation to pull back on the amount of love we give. And we do it in the cruelest way. We pull back without communication, without questions, and without checking to see if our assumptions were correct, we just leave. Abandon one another after realizing the other person was human. We didn’t do that kind of stuff as kids. We fought, argued and then invited our friends (the one we just argued with) over for dinner. We didn’t think they were possessed or insane or no longer worthy of our friendship. They disagreed with us but that didn’t mean we were enemies. We knew they were flawed, but that just made us love them better.

As you blog, not everyone will stick around. As people get to know you better, they will soon decide whether you are someone they want to keep up with. And that‘s not a bad thing entirely. People have a right to decide who they want to have around them. That’s life. People come and people go. Blogging is no different. This decision will come, either from you or from them. Somewhere along the lines, you’ll learn you either are or are no longer compatible.

If you‘re new to blogging you better take advantage of it. Those days of people being kind and generous and supportive and of you being loved on won‘t last long. Four and five years into this thing and you will look up to the faces of a completely new group of people, wondering where everyone has gone. This new group will love you now. Appreciate them for it. These are the childlike stages of blogging. The beginning of things, the freshness, the newness. These are the days when we are innocent.

The PBS Blog Podcast Ep 18 – Love is Reciprocal

I talk a lot about self-love and the importance of learning to love yourself but do not misunderstand me: love is reciprocal. Just as you give love you should also receive love. Love should always come back to you and if it doesn’t something is wrong. Understand that loving yourself is the foundation. It sets the stage for how you will allow yourself to be treated but it is not the end. Once you are capable of fully and unapologetically loving yourself you have a responsibility to give love and you have a right to receive love. Remember, what’s in the cup is yours and the overflow is for others.

Listen to the full podcast, “Love is Reciprocal” below on Soundcloud and iTunes.

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-573689310

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-pbs-blog-podcast/id1344901312?mt=2

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pbsblogpodcast

IG: https://www.instagram.com/thepbsblog/

To follow my personal IG page @yecheilyah


Remember that you can catch all 18 episodes by visiting the podcast page HERE. Also, my Soundcloud limit is up and I have now upgraded to a pro account. But if at any time that does not fit in with my budget I cannot be sure I will continue with this series so enjoy this while you can! I have much more urgent financial responsibilities so I will cut this off if I need to. But, know that you can always find the episodes on my Soundcloud page or on the podcast page of this blog.