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Families in Crisis in the Old SouthDivorce, Slavery, and the Law$
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Loren Schweninger

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780807835692

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807837504_schweninger

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Adultery and the Question of Race

Adultery and the Question of Race

(p.17) 2 Adultery and the Question of Race
Families in Crisis in the Old South

Loren Schweninger

University of North Carolina Press

In 1855, Sarah Black, wife of planter and slave owner James E. Black, filed suit in the First District Court for a divorce, alimony, child custody, and a portion of the marital community property. She charged her husband with adultery, having caught him in the act of illicit intercourse with one of his slaves. This chapter analyzes the interracial sexual relations that caused the dissolution of marriages. Narratives of divorce and separation such as the case of Sarah Black offer a unique and surprising profile of adultery in a slaveholding society during the antebellum era. In addition to the study of adultery committed by white men with black women, the chapter also examines illicit relations between white women and black men, and the punishments for black men involved in such cases.

Keywords:   Sarah Black, James Black, marital community property, interracial sexual relations, divorce, separation, white women, black men, adultery, illicit relations

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