Fenton, “An Essay on Slavery’s Hidden Legacy”

Zanita Fenton (Miami) has published An Essay on Slavery’s Hidden Legacy: Social Hysteria and Structural Condonation of Incest, 55 Howard L.J. 319 (2012).  Here is the abstract:

The history of slavery and its effects within the United States, especially the impact on the black family and individuals who are African American, have been studied and postulated since before slavery formally ended. What is less often discussed is the impact of slavery on white families and the individuals who comprise those families, or generally the American family within society at large. For both the commission of incest or miscegenation, the event(s) were publicly condemned while simultaneously ignored and hidden, and thereby condoned. Despite the imperative for racial purity, white men enjoyed a presumption of free access to slaves, as well as to freed women. Indeed, because acts of miscegenation were so common, as was their denial, they occurred in transparent obscurity. Further, this white, patriarchal, sexual prerogative was unfettered and all but unchallenged, even when such access resulted in an actual biological, incestuous coupling. Thus, the convergence of the taboos, miscegenated incest/incestuous miscegeny, prompted the hidden exhibition of incest, first for relations between family members of “opposite” races, but also for any correlate relations within a “same” race family.



[printable page]