Greenlee-Donnell 2012 Rape

Title Information

Speaker: Cynthia R. Greenlee-Donnell

Title: 'Due to her tender age'

Subtitle: African-American responses to girl rape in late nineteenth-century South Carolina

Conference: 97th Annual Convention of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History: Black Women in American Culture & History (September 26-30, 2012)

Place: Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania, United States

Date: September 28, 2012

Language: English

Keywords: 19th Century | U.S. History | Types: Child Sexual Abuse; Victims: Girls

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Additional Information

Abstract: »At a time when rape narratives involving black male perpetrators and white female victims circulated with often-deadly consequences for black men, black families and communities developed their own strategies for addressing alleged sexual abuse of their underage daughters or neighbors: informal out-of-court settlements; violence; and, last but not least, legal redress. In various South Carolina upcountry districts/counties (where there were not black majorities), black girls nonetheless made up sizable numbers of the victims in rape or other sexual cases. While relatively few rape cases made it to trial and resulted in conviction -- a pattern even for cases with white actors -- working-class black families could have some success securing conviction in cases where very young girls were assaulted. In the midst of a Jim Crowing legal system, black families articulated that their girl children were worthy of defense, and their actions made black girls' experiences critical to larger debates about the meaning of sexual consent and child protection However, as girls approached adulthood both biologically and socially, it became more difficult for families to sustain legal cases, and sources suggest considerable intrafamily tumult between adults and adolescent girls as well as the high frequency of transactional and coerced sex between young girls and boys or men. Looking at extant legal documents -- including testimony, indictments, coroner's reports, appeals, and newspaper accounts -- this paper foregrounds the (mediated) voices of black girls. It uses local legal proceedings to productively destablize the historiographic dominance of "the rape myth" and the prevailing notion among U.S. childhood historians that black children were systematically excluded from the category of childhood until well into the 20th century.« (Source: All Academic)

Added: December 20, 2014 – Last updated: December 20, 2014