The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation, by Wilma Dunaway: Review Essay

Rod Bush

Abstract


This is an explosive book, iconoclastic, myth-shattering, and profound. But it is also fine tuned and rich in detail, the work of a master (no pun intended) craftswoman. You have simply got to read this book. Wilma Dunaway has issued a provocative rebuttal to those who have argued that slaveholders rarely broke-up enslaved African families; that slaves were adequately fed, clothed, and sheltered; and that slave health or death risks were no greater than those experienced by white adults. According to Dunaway these weaknesses in much scholarly research stem from a flawed view of the slave family, scholarly neglect of small plantations, limited analysis of Upper South enslavement, and academic exaggeration of slave agency. Dunaways study relies largely on her analysis of slave narratives.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2010.439

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