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White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South Paperback – January 11, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300077505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300077506
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

White Women, Black Men is a fascinating study of a category of interracial relationships that conventional wisdom has held did not exist: liaisons (the term author Martha Hodes prefers) between black men and white women in the antebellum South. Hodes shows how such relationships were tolerated, though not encouraged, to a surprising degree before the Civil War. In a fascinating feat of historical detective work, she uses court documents and other records in cases involving racial status, rape, divorce, and property, to explore the nature of these relationships. She shows white women who voluntarily gave up their privileged status to cohabit with black men, and white communities that turned a blind eye toward such unions. It was not until after the Civil War--when freedom for blacks meant Southern whites needed new ways to enforce their putative superiority--that black men were routinely punished with violence for real, or imagined, relationships with white women. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Hodes (history, New York Univ.) provides the first real scholarly exploration of this important topic. Relying primarily on legal documents and testimony generated by court cases, Hodes gives us several detailed case studies. She finds that before the Civil War, whites generally did not react violently to cases of interracial liaison but rather displayed a complex range of attitudes, from indifference to concern (especially if children resulted from the "connection"). In the postbellum period, however, whites often responded with extreme violence to any hint of miscegenation. Indeed, in an effort to diminish black political power, whites often invented incidents of interracial contact and reacted accordingly. A brilliant work, imaginatively researched and well written. Highly recommended.?Anthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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They said the information was very well written.
Sable
I wish there were more books about this issue like this that was as insightful about this topic without being judgmental about it.
Dane Antoine
It's really quiet amazing how common liaisons between different races were in this time period and oddly how tolerated they were.
Candice Murdock

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on March 7, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a scandalously good and honest book; well researched and successful in pulling back the scab on one of the many important subterranean areas of southern America's lurid but very active cross-racial sexual life. Most of America's social history remains tucked away in various nooks and crannies of our collective repressed minds.

While the evidence is everywhere (the large numbers of American mulattoes and the fact that half of all American blacks and Native Americans have some white blood and rather incredibly about 30% of all whites have some black blood: How did it get that way? -- not through the White woman-Black man route, for sure.

There is a great deal to chew on here. Among others, it puts to rest the old myth of the wild black buck rapist. Many, if not most of the blacks lynched for rape were certifiably engaged in love affairs discovered and exposed too soon, with predictable consequences: The black man usually ended up paying the ultimate price to protect the reputation of his white female lover. But in many such instances the woman refused to take the "he raped me defense" and openly declared her love for her illicit black mate, and as a result, also suffered the inevitable consequences -effective expulsion from the white race.

When the other half of this sordid story comes to the fore - the "goings-on in the dark" between white men and black women -- only then can we truly say that America is coming of age. Five stars
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dane Antoine on February 24, 2013
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I really enjoyed this book because it is a topic that is rarely ever researched and analyzed. Some may see it as controversial but I learned a lot from reading it such as the origin and the purpose of the one percent rule and how the discourse on intimate relationships between white women and black men were shaped after the civil war and the granting of black male vote. I can see now how people view this type of relationship in America has been largely influenced by the racial politics of post-civil war era and the 13th Amendment. I wish there were more books about this issue like this that was as insightful about this topic without being judgmental about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Asor-Sallaah on March 24, 2014
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Great reading tells another side of sexual relationships and love between black men and their lovers in slavery and beyond. It allows it reader a brighter side of male and female relationship without the tyranny of rape that occurred between white men and black men/women victims. It indicates throughout slavery white women continued to love their black male counterparts knowingly facing death and whereas white males had to use rape to have sexual relationships with women of color.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Candice Murdock on December 3, 2013
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I don't think I have ever read an account of such and intriguing antebellum topic with so many primary sources used. The majority of the book is based on court documents from Virginia and Appalachia. It's really quiet amazing how common liaisons between different races were in this time period and oddly how tolerated they were. This book definitely changed my perception about southern society at this time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Theresa M. Merritt on November 24, 2013
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Very interesting collection of examples of the "taboo" subject of interracial relationships in the highly volatile environment of the slave-holding South. Though provoking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Helen Kimble on August 26, 2013
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Clear language covering a broad period and geographic area. A good foray into the legal context and variety of responses in various areas of the south.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sable on April 3, 2014
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This was a gift. The person absolutely loved it and is looking for more books by this author. They said the information was very well written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ray Moore Jr on October 11, 2013
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this was a good read for understanding the myths of sexual relations between white women and black men in the 17-19th centuries.
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