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Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica

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Auburn Avenue Research Library

101 Auburn Avenue Northeast

Atlanta, GA 30303

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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 pregnancy, childrearing, and slavery in Jamaica. The program is FREE and open to the public. Reserve seats here.

It is often thought that slaveholders only began to show an interest in female slaves’ reproductive health after the British government banned the importation of Africans into its West Indian colonies in 1807. However, as Sasha Turner shows in this illuminating study, for almost thirty years before the slave trade ended, Jamaican slaveholders and doctors adjusted slave women’s labor, discipline, and health care to increase birth rates and ensure that infants lived to become adult workers. Although slaves’ interests in healthy pregnancies and babies aligned with those of their masters, enslaved mothers, healers, family, and community members distrusted their owners’ medicine and benevolence. Turner contends that the social bonds and cultural practices created with regard to reproductive health care and childbirth challenged the economic purposes slaveholders gave to birthing and raising children.

Through powerful stories that place the reader on the ground in plantation-era Jamaica, Contested Bodies reveals enslaved women’s contrasting ideas about maternity and raising children, which put them at odds not only with their owners but sometimes with abolitionists and enslaved men. Turner argues that, as the source of new labor, these women created rituals, customs, and relationships with regard to pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing that enabled them at times to dictate the nature and pace of their work as well as their value. Drawing on a wide range of sources—including plantation records, abolitionist treatises, legislative documents, slave narratives, runaway advertisements, proslavery literature, and planter correspondence—Contested Bodies yields a fresh account of how the end of the slave trade changed the bodily experiences of those still enslaved in Jamaica. Books will be available for purchase.


About the Author

Sasha Turner completed a PhD at Cambridge University and is Associate Professor of History at QuinnipiacUniversity where she teaches courses on the Caribbean and the African Diaspora, women, piracy, colonialism, and slavery. Her research on gender, race, and the body, and women, children, and emotions has been published in Journal of Women’s History, Slavery and Abolition, and Caribbean Studies and has been supported by Rutgers University Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Studies Fellowship, Washington University in St. Louis African and African American Studies Fellowship, and the Richards Civil War Era Center and Africana Research Center Fellowship at the Pennsylvania State University. In Fall 2017, Turner will continue research on her new book project, tentatively titled, Slavery, Emotions, and Gendered Power, as a Fellow at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. Follow her on twitter @drsashaturner.

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Auburn Avenue Research Library

101 Auburn Avenue Northeast

Atlanta, GA 30303

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