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American FatherhoodA History$
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Jürgen Martschukat

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479892273

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479892273.001.0001

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Slavery, Family, and Fatherhood, 1830–1860

Slavery, Family, and Fatherhood, 1830–1860

(p.45) 3 Slavery, Family, and Fatherhood, 1830–1860
American Fatherhood

Jürgen Martschukat

NYU Press

The third chapter explores the history of slavery. It is written from the perspective of the slave father Tom Jones and uses his slave narrative and his letters from the early 1850s as source material. The chapter shows how Jones as a slave father fights against his coercion into bondage and how he acts to take control over his life, obviously driven by an urge to have a family to love and to care for. Yet in presenting Tom Jones’s desires, thoughts, and actions, his slave narrative clearly draws upon the image of an ideal republican, Christian, industrious, and caring father and citizen. Thus, it presents to a white northern audience a black slave who deserves freedom because he knows how to employ his liberties for the betterment of himself, his family, and, after all, society. The chapter argues that the story of the slave’s efforts to care for his family and gain recognition as father make a compelling argument for the injustice and wrongfulness of slavery in general, while at the same time reinforcing the nuclear family ideal with all its normative power.

Keywords:   slavery, slave narratives, slave families

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