Paper 1

Submitted By ryan9redsox
Words: 1126
Pages: 5

Up until recently, interracial marriage was not a widely discussed or contested subject because of its link to the history of racism and sexism. Even today, for example, many families who follow their ancestor’s footsteps on the topic of tradition forbid their children to be married off into a random family. Similarly, in the seventeenth century colonial America, there were many strict laws that were enforced to punish blacks, women, slaves, servants, and other classes of people who engaged in fornication and adultery. However, the punishments for the crime were dependent on the race, sex, and age of the convicts. It may seem a certain gender or a race was discriminated when related to the severity of the punishment, but, over time, and after many revisions of the laws, the austerity of certain disciplines for those discriminated, either lightened or loosened. “Negroes” were introduced in Virginia in the early seventeenth century not as slaves, a common misconception, but as indentured servants. Unlike slaves, indentured servants had laws to protect them as well as certain rights. They were initially treated and given similar opportunities, freedom, and privileges like the whites until slave laws were imposed. Due to the increase in demand for labor, the prices for indentured servants naturally rose as well. Because newly freed servants demanded land, landowners decided to invest solely in African slaves due to their profitability and accessibility. Thus, marked the turn from common indentured servants to black slavery. “…doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman should be slave or free…all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother,” [Negro womens children to serve according to the condition of the mother, 1662 (74)]. Conjured up in 1662, this statute was intended to enslave potential children. The words “condition of the mother” is a significant clue that reveals the intentions of the law and policy makers. That statement is unfavorable to females because the destiny of the child was determined by the social class of the female. Whereas the Englishman, mentioned in the law, had no say in the child’s future. This was completely opposite to the English tradition where the child would usually inherit his or her status directly from his or her father. This is significant because seeing Englishmen as true traditionalist, the necessity for them to entirely shift their paradigm is shocking. However, this shift is interesting because it was a simple solution to an unknown father of a child. Because many women simply would not admit who the father was, basing the future of the child from the mother would be the most convenient, yet hassle-free option. Another point to note is that if the women of the punishment were enslaved African women, the offspring would be considered her master’s property. “Black women gave birth to white wealth.” As a result, laws were created to refrain slave owners from constantly raping their black slaves to attain “free labor.” However, unsurprisingly, if the women were English servants, regardless of the race and status of the men, she would only have to repay by adding two years of service (Child support is dependent on the father’s race and class). The racism within that community during the middle to late seventeenth century was clearly very strong. “And that if any Christian shall commit ffornication with a negro man or woman, hee or shee soe offending shall pay double the ffines imposed by the former act. [Negro womens children to serve according to the condition of the mother [1662] (74)].” The term “Christian” never specified any race in the law, but throughout history, historians came to the conclusion that “Christians” were referred to as “white” people. Why was it not possible for Africans to be Christians as well? Was it because the religion was seen as a sacred and