Heat, sex, and sugar: pregnancy and childbearing in the slave quarters

Follett, Richard (2003) Heat, sex, and sugar: pregnancy and childbearing in the slave quarters. Journal of Family History, 28 (4). pp. 510-539. ISSN 0363-1990

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Abstract

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.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > American Studies
Subjects: E History America > E11 America (General)
E History America > E151 United States (General)
Depositing User: Richard Follett
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:26
Last Modified: 29 May 2012 11:21
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/16373
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