Date of Award

12-1-1997

Degree Type

Thesis

University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)

Degree Name

M.A.

History

First Advisor

Professor Janice Sumler-Edmond

Second Advisor

Professor Richard Morton

Abstract

This study examined the phenomena of herbal contraceptives and abortives and their use among enslaved women in the United States and the Caribbean. The conclusions that can be drawn from the research are that some women did choose to use herbal birth control and abortives. There is evidence to suggest that this use may have been directly used as a uniquely female means of resistance to slavery. It is also indicated that the more African cultural retentions there were in other areas of the lives of these women, the more likely that this phenomena would be employed as well. The profession of healer as a means of gaining respect and authority in the plantation community and in reference to how they aided women seeking abortions is discussed as well.

The paper uses many historical sources as well as many science texts to authenticate the availability and properties of the flora and fauna of the regions in which women were enslaved. The author also postulates that this phenomena was aided by African retentions of these methods as well as additions by Native Americans upon arriving in North America and the Caribbean. Birth and death rates from a plantation are also used with three reproductive case studies of the women who lived on the plantation. Many slave narratives as well as contemporary sources were used in the research and writing of this paper.

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