Enslaved Women, Resistant Motherlove, and the Price of Black Motherhood
In this thesis, I examine Harriet Jacobs's representation of Black motherhood in her 1861 slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. I argue that we should read Jacobs's portrayal of hopeful Black motherly love as a deliberately political text before the Civil War that resists heteropatriarchal white supremacy. In addition to building on Black feminist scholarship about Black motherhood, Black motherlove, and hope as resistance, I discuss the ways in which white supremacy in the United States has historically punished and degraded Black mothers, thus, negatively impacting Black families. By reading Jacobs as a political text, I resist one-dimensional narratives about Black motherhood that perpetuate systemic oppression and erase Black mothers as loving, capable, nurturing, and hopeful. By exploring Jacobs's portrayal of hopeful Black motherlove in her narrative, we can learn pertinent lessons about resistance and justice in a post-Roe political landscape that continues to punish Black women.