Added: October 25, 2000 – Last updated: August 1, 2015


Author: Peter W. Bardaglio

Title: Rape and the Law in the Old South

Subtitle: "Calculated to Excite Indignation in Every Heart"

Journal: The Journal of Southern History

Volume: 60

Issue: 4

Year: November 1994

Pages: 749-772

ISSN: 0022-4642 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century | U.S. History | Types: Interracial Rape


Link: EBSCOhost (Restricted Access)

Link: JSTOR (Restricted Access)



»Rape prosecutions in the antebellum South indicate tension between the need for racial control and the desirability of due process. The belief that only "respectable" women could be raped and that black men were obsessed with the desire to rape white women combined to "create a cultural and legal consensus that remained unchallenged for more than a century."« (Source: America: History and Life)

»The writer discusses the laws on rape in the 11 states that later seceded to form the Confederacy. Before the Civil War, he explains, slaves received a degree of due process, albeit within a statutory framework that usually imposed far harsher punishment on blacks convicted of rape than on whites. This dual statutory framework, he asserts, exposed the contradictions generated by a slave society caught in the large web of a capitalist system committed to egalitarianism. Moreover, he contends, antebellum appellate opinions reveal how the legal treatment of white women bringing rape charges reinforced class as well as racial stratification, for not only blacks but also poor white women encountered negative stereotypes that underscored their inferior social position.« (Source: EBSCOhost)

Lectures: Bardaglio, Peter W. »'Calculated to Excite Indignation in Every Heart': Rape and the Law in the Antebellum South.« Annual Meeting of the Southern Historical Association. Fort Worth 1991.