File(s) not publicly available
Heat, sex, and sugar: pregnancy and childbearing in the slave quarters
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-07, 20:00 authored by Richard Follett
This article examines the dynamics of slave fecundity in the antebellum South and analyzes the relationship between the planters' labor requirements and pregnancy on large sugar estates in nineteenth-century Louisiana. In contrast to the cotton states, where the slave population grew, bondspeople in Louisiana's sugar world experienced natural population decrease. This derived in part from imbalanced sex ratios, but as this article explores, it also occurred because of the punishing nature of sugar production that taxed slave women in distinct ways over the entire year. As this article shows, conceptions peaked during the annual harvest season but collapsed at other times because of nutritional stress, overwork, heat, and exhaustion. Addressing the seasonality of slave childbirths, the article posits that workload combined with climatic, ecological, hormonal, nutritional, and lactation factors ultimately shaped the reproductive ecology of American slavery.
JournalJournal of Family History
Department affiliated with
- American Studies Publications
Full text available