Sexual Violence and American Slavery

The Making of a Rape Culture in the Antebellum South

By Shannon Eaves

242 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 2 halftones

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7881-8
    Published: April 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7880-1
    Published: April 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7882-5
    Published: April 2024

Paperback Available April 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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It is impossible to separate histories of sexual violence and the enslavement of Black women in the antebellum South. Rape permeated the lives of all who existed in that system: Black and white, male and female, adult and child, enslaved and free. Shannon C. Eaves unflinchingly investigates how both enslaved people and their enslavers experienced the systematic rape and sexual exploitation of bondswomen and came to understand what this culture of sexualized violence meant for themselves and others.

Eaves mines a wealth of primary sources including autobiographies, diaries, court records, and more to show that rape and other forms of sexual exploitation entangled slaves and slave owners in battles over power to protect oneself and one’s community, power to avenge hurt and humiliation, and power to punish and eliminate future threats. By placing sexual violence at the center of the systems of power and culture, Eaves shows how the South’s rape culture was revealed in enslaved people's and their enslavers' interactions with one another and with members of their respective communities.

About the Author

Shannon Eaves is assistant professor of history at the College of Charleston.
For more information about Shannon Eaves, visit the Author Page.


"The insights in Shannon Eaves' new book will shape future discussions of sexual violence and exploitation under slavery, whether focused on the history of enslaved people or histories of white southern communities and families. This is an important book that promises to be the gold standard on this subject going forward."—Hannah Rosen, author of Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South