White Slavery, Maternal Descent…

White Slavery, Maternal Descent, And The Politics Of Slavery In The Antebellum United States

Originally Presented At University Of Nottingham Institute For The Study Of Slavery

by Lawrence R. Tenzer , Ed.D. and A.D. Powell

July/August 2004

When one thinks of slavery in America, images of black and brown people come to mind. A little-known fact but true nonetheless, white people were also slaves. The white slavery spoken of in this paper is not about the indentured servants of the 1600s and 1700s, who were sometimes referred to as white slaves while in servitude during their five to seven-year terms. Rather, the white slaves addressed herein were slaves for life, chattel slaves with the same social status as their black and brown counterparts. Several generations of interracial sexual relations between black slave women and white plantation masters or other white men created a population of white slaves, so-called white mulattoes, slaves who looked white and showed no visible African ancestry whatsoever.

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