By Diane Miller Sommerville

Not easy notions of race and sexuality presumed to have originated and flourished within the slave South, Diane Miller Sommerville strains the evolution of white southerners' fears of black rape by way of interpreting genuine circumstances of black-on-white rape through the 19th century.Sommerville demonstrates that regardless of draconian statutes, accused black rapists usually shunned execution or castration, mostly because of intervention by means of participants of the white neighborhood. This leniency belies claims that antebellum white southerners have been triumph over with nervousness approximately black rape. actually, Sommerville argues, there has been nice fluidity throughout racial and sexual strains in addition to a better tolerance between whites for intimacy among black men and white adult females. in line with Sommerville, pervasive misogyny fused with type prejudices to form white responses to accusations of black rape even throughout the Civil battle and Reconstruction sessions, a testomony to the endurance of principles approximately negative women's innate depravity.Based predominantly on court docket files and assisting criminal documentation, Sommerville's exam forces a reassessment of long-held assumptions concerning the South and race family members as she remaps the social and racial terrain on which southerners--black and white, wealthy and poor--related to each other over the lengthy 19th century.

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Nonetheless, isolated cases of whites responding to black rape of white females with measured indi√erence are still observable. The long-standing custom of doubting the integrity of a poor, white woman whose behavior fell outside the boundaries of respectability proved so resilient that at times it continued to be invoked at the height of white supremacy in cases where black men stood accused of sexually violating white women. I end the book with an appendix, an expanded essay on the historiography of the rape myth.

White women who flouted prevailing sexual mores, especially those who crossed racial boundaries willingly to have sex with black men, often faced derision by the white community and courts. White southerners could turn viciously on white female accusers who were believed to have broached racial sexual boundaries. A group of Virginians, for instance, made an appeal in 1803 on behalf of Carter, a slave found guilty of raping a poor white woman, Catherine Brinal, who, like Sarah Sands, had a reputation for cavorting with African American men.

Class chafing is also evident in a letter to the governor of Virginia after the trial in 1846 of Anthony, a slave in King George County. The petitioner wrote, ‘‘[S]uppose for instance that [the alleged victim] had been of a rich family . . ’’∏∫ The obvious implication was that elites would never have allowed their womenfolk to appear publicly in court and testify in shocking detail about having su√ered a sexual assault. The o√ender would have been dealt with privately. Poor women, however, did not have that luxury.

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