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  1. “The sexual politics of slavery



    Melton McLaurin notes that the Celia’s defense “challenged the role of white man as the protector of women within southern society . . .[and] challenged the concept of male honor, a crucial element of the South’s social system.” What does Celia’s story and “the sexual politics of slavery” have to say about antebellum families and women generally?  



Subject Law and governance Pages 7 Style APA


What Celia’s story and “the sexual politics of slavery have to say about antebellum families and women generally

At the time of Celia, women slaves were considered as sheer properties for white male characters who were in charge of them, and displayed to them how sexual politics of slavery for the antebellum families who had very strong kinship ties tampered with the main family framework (Earle, 2004, p.12). During the antebellum time, gender and slavery defined the main lifestyle of the time because southern families gave high regard to the patriarchal supremacy above female characters and slaves. (Pittman, 2014, p. 4)

Women were mostly the victim of circumstances because the male characters levied their authoritative power on them, they did not  have as numerous rights as men neither were they well placed to contest for the principle of equality with men. This shows that the antebellum families were predominated hierarchically the female characters and affected the family structure of that point in time. Women, however, tried to pave their way especially through orphanages which gave them room to assert their motherly instincts and expertise within the realm of the southern families’ norms (Pittman, 2014, p.5).


The story of Celia demonstrated how the white man’s power rested on a high scale than anyone else, and given that the politics in slavery was on its pick, women were commencing their contest for the principle of equality and the contest to fix the evil activities that were taking place at that point in time. This did not succeed per se because at the end of it all we Celia, the salve girl ending up being executed in such a dehumanizing manner especially just because she was a female victim who ended up finding a solution to her sexual manipulation through killing her chief principal character Robert Newsom (McLaurin, 1991, p.

The word antebellum as embraced and used today expounds on the agonizing point in time in which the white people in their supremacy enslaved the black people and deprived them of their inalienable human rights, freedom, dignity, and rationality by extension, something which is still taking place today in most areas of the world. The story divulges the pressure that stressed the protagonists of the antebellum southern community; displays how the chief principal leader’s abuse of leadership mandate coerced the whites to make an ethical choice on the nature of slavery who had no room to justify their ends at any given point in time. 

Cecilia’s story of being exploited sexually by her chief principal Robert Newsom and finally executed for killing him derives much of its importance and equally its prose authority from a point of view of particular concerns and moral predicaments that the story coerced people to confront. The story’s moral teaching discloses the relationships based on gender, race, and authority rooted in the antebellum South community. It exemplifies the way in which legislation was enforced to lessen the moral anxiety that was created by slavery. Furthermore, Celia’s story reminds humanity that individual life and political life are not two dissimilar separate worlds (McLaurin, 1991, p ix); this is because of the concerns based on gender and race that humanity continues to struggle with especially in line with power distribution in modern civilization that continues to grapple with the intolerance of the women’s positions in such arena (McLaurin, 1991, p. ix).

            Her life enlightens people little about some slavery facets; the political slavery economy or the outline and the undertakings of the slave group. Her slave life outlined a comprehensive case study of ultimate moral apprehension that was produced by slavery; the ultimate moral apprehension and the ethical predicaments were in the core center of the establishment of slavery. For the majority of antebellum southerners, incorporating many more that did not hold slaves, the ethical predicament of slavery was barely concept to be discussed.

 On the contrary, they were in the midst of the inevitable realms of everyday realities and an important element of society. Therefore, as the southerners, those who were in control of slaves and those who were not were coerced to muddle through with them in concrete ways vis-à-vis theoretical approach.

Significance of Celia’s story

The trial of Celia, a slave girl took part at a point in time when slavery was at its highest as an extremely contentious matter in the United State of America. For this reason, any verdict that was to be bestowed upon Celia was guaranteed to have very relevant implications for the legal status of the people who were enslaved especially the female characters (women). It is quite logical to appreciate the fact that the laws of the time acknowledged the fact that Celia, the slave girl was the property of Robert Newsom the chief principal that Celia ended up killing and hiding the entire evidence.

From the above frame of thought, the idea that was in the air was that it was then within the rights of Robert Newsom to do anything he felt or wanted to Celia for this case rape just because she was a woman. This was the highest form of slavery, dehumanization, and sexual manipulation that calls for condemnation with the strongest terms possible. This is because it does not only deform the dignity of the human female character but also deprives her of her inalienable rights, human freedom.

This kind of evils and mistreatments are still happening in some parts of the world today, it is therefore very important to condemn such vices and uphold human dignity for all, defend human rights for all, human protection for all especially for women who are sexually abused and manipulated in the society like Celia. This story is relevant to the current status of things because it teaches the current generation not only on how to treat people especially women but also it expounds the consequences that come with any form of mistreatment that is levied upon the vulnerable and the enslaved in the society in this case women. It shows the far the human mind and ability to tolerate evil can be stretched and the repercussions that come when an enslaved person is left without no option.

All people want to be treated as human beings, they want to be treated as subjects who are mirrors to their own fellow human beings; gender does not define what one human person is capable of feeling and what the other is not. The point is that pain, for example, is not particular to women and not to men. This means whatever one human person is capable of feeling, and then the other is as well. The golden rule principle when advocates for treating others as you wish to be treated is invoked in Celia, the slave girl’s story.

The only time that Celia was considered as a human person legally, was the time she was being punished. As displayed by Hartman and Saidiya, “Missouri versus Celia showed that the enslaved could neither offer nor deny consent, nor could they provide sensible resistance, yet they were considered criminally accountable and responsible” (Saidiya). This meant they were completely treated as mere objects and not as subjects at all. In a nutshell, the slave was treated as a rational subject with intent and rationality only in the context of criminal liability. This is a wrong treatment to be bestowed on women just because of their gender. The modern society should embrace equal legal rule and legal protection to all people without being selective on its subjects.


In conclusion, it is crucial to note that Celia, a slave displays a scenario in which the viciousness and moral decadence of slavery’s establishment influenced the life of a distinct character slave. As demonstrated by the case of Celia, women who were slaves were left absolutely susceptible to sexual violence from both those who were in charge of them as their leaders and to other slave male persons. It is evident that the slave girl suffers constant rape at the disposal of her main principal subject Robert Newsom who took it within his right to manipulate her just because she was answerable to him as his slave.

The most poignant point in the story of Celia in relation to antebellum families and women, in general, is that even after she ultimately succeeded in shielding the person in her against the levied accusations of killing her chief principal leader, she ended up with completely nothing on her legal help path to substantiate what she did. For instance, Celia could not give evidence when the trial proceedings took place because the Missouri slave law which was a distinct set of legislations linked solely to slaves did not allow such subjects to defend their masters.

Given that there was no empathetic 3rd party to testify the claimed bidden rape, there was no any other channel that Celia would have straightaway presented her assertions leave alone to argue them out. This shows how women are victims of circumstances even if though they have a right like any other human person to be heard. On the other hand, given that the Missouri slave legislation permitted slaves to justify themselves from their chief principal leaders if their sacred lives were being endangered, the same legislation was noiseless in matters that pertain to slave women who protect and defend themselves from sexual violence matters.

Such lawful circumstances that were all over the South, permitted the logical sexual manipulation of a conceivably limitless number of individuals. It could be an issue that wasn’t given deemed attention at that point in time neither was it given desired attention in numerous main historical records of slavery. That greatest lesson that each person takes home at the end of the day is the fact that Celia’s story, the slave girl who was found guilty and hanged on the 21st of December the year 1855 (Whites), greatly strikes the very prevalent sexual manipulation of women, and slaves, a complete cycle which remains mysterious and heartbreaking to tell.




Billingsley, Carolyn Earle. Communities of Kinship: Antebellum Families and the Settlement of the Cotton Frontier. University of Georgia Press, 2004.

Hartman, Saidiya. “Seduction and the Ruses of Power.” Callaloo 19.2 (1996): 537-560.

McLaurin, Melton Alonza. Celia, a slave. University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Pittman, Jennifer Burkett. The Social History of the American Family: An Encyclopedia, 2014. Retrieved on November 28, 2020,


Whites, LeeAnn. “Celia: A Slave.” Civil War History 39.1 (1993): 88-90.


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