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Slavery and the Making of AmericaPolitical caricature depicting black and white men and women interacting
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Men, Women & Gender
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight Slave Clothing Personal Narratives Original Docs
The Clothes Make the Man, the Woman, and the Slave
Link to Gender Specific Clothing Link to The Power of a Uniform Link to Clothing for slave children Link to Dress that Oppressed and Clothing that Liberated Link to Nudity and the Captive Body Link to Slave Women and the Head-Wrap
Illustration - Flagellation of A Female Slave
Nudity and the Captive Body

William Blake's image (right) of a black woman being whipped was created for a book about slavery in Surinam. However, the vision it presents is significant for North American slavery as well. In their efforts to assert control, masters not only dressed their slaves, but also undressed them. Slaves were stripped for inspection on the auction block and often provided with insufficient clothing while working in the fields.

Whipping, a common form of slave punishment, demanded the removal of clothing. For the female slave, this generally meant disrobing down to the waist. Although her state of half dress allowed the woman some modesty, it also exposed her naked breasts to all eyes. This sight reinforced white perceptions associating sexuality with the "uncivilized" black female. At the same time, the slave's body, uncovered and vulnerable, could provoke the desire of onlookers, increasing the chances of the woman being sexually assaulted as well.

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