Between 1619 and 1865, as many as eight million slaves lived within the current boundaries of the United States, making slavery one of the nation's most profoundly influential institutions. For millions of male slaves, fashioning a masculine identity became an important means of coping with slavery's oppressive and degrading conditions. The ideals and experiences generated within the crucible of slavery set enslaved men apart from their white counterparts, even as they strove to find a place for themselves within white-dominated southern society.


During the colonial period, slaves' concept of masculinity often came from Africa, where husbands and fathers normally exercised patriarchal authority (contrary to common misconceptions that African societies were predominantly matriarchal) and aspired to be great men as warriors, village politicians, or spiritual leaders, although ...

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