Sunday, February 24, 2019
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Auburn Avenue Research Library
101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
The Baton Foundation, Inc., in partnership with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, will host a lecture and book signing about the history of Black marriage in the nineteenth century. This program is free and open to the public.
Americans have long viewed marriage between a White man and a White woman as a sacred union. But marriages between Blacks have seldom been treated with the same reverence. This discriminatory legacy traces back to centuries of slavery, when the overwhelming majority of Black married couples were bound in servitude as well as wedlock. Though their unions were not legally recognized, enslaved women and men commonly married, fully aware that their marital bonds would be sustained or nullified according to the whims of White masters.
Bound in Wedlock is the first comprehensive history of Black marriage in the nineteenth century. Uncovering the experiences of Black spouses in plantation records, legal and court documents, and pension files, Tera W. Hunter reveals the myriad ways couples adopted, adapted, revised, and rejected White Christian ideas of marriage. Setting their own standards for conjugal relationships, enslaved husbands and wives were creative and, of necessity, practical in starting and supporting families under conditions of uncertainty and cruelty.
After emancipation, White racism continued to menace Black marriages. Laws passed during Reconstruction, ostensibly to secure the civil rights of newly freed Black citizens, were often coercive and repressive. Informal antebellum traditions of marriage were criminalized, and the new legal regime became a convenient tool for plantation owners to discipline agricultural workers. Recognition of the right of Blacks to enter into wedlock on terms equal to Whites would remain a struggle into the Jim Crow era, and its legacy would resonate well into the twentieth century.
About the Author
Dr. Tera W. Hunter is Professor of History and African-American Studies at Princeton University. She is a scholar of labor, gender, race, and Southern history. Professor Hunter is a native of Miami, Florida, where she attended public schools. She received a B.A. degree from Duke University and a Ph.D. from Yale University.
NOTE: Limited free parking is available in the lot behind the library. You may secure a parking pass from the library’s concierge desk. Also, recording of any kind is not permitted at Baton Foundation events.