Time to End Myth About 'Stable' Slave Families

Bachmann's vow is part of a 'deliberate amnesia' on slavery
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2011 1:32 PM CDT
Tera Hunter: Time to End the Slave-Family Myth in 'Marriage Vow' Taken by Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., addresses a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, Thursday, July 28, 2011.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

There’s a persistent myth in America that slavery was “an idyllic world of stable families headed by married parents," writes Tera Hunter—a myth that Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum’s endorsement of the “Marriage Vow” served to highlight. It’s time for us to understand the truth, writes Hunter in the New York Times. The vow (since amended) asserted that child slaves had more stable family situations than African-American kids born after Barack Obama’s election. The truth is that slave families were at the mercy of their masters, constantly at risk of being torn apart.

In reality, “slaves could not marry legally,” “male slaves had no paternal rights,” and “female slaves were recognized as mothers only to the extent that their status doomed their children’s fate to servitude in perpetuity.” At any moment, a slave’s master could choose to sell her far away from her family. The “Marriage Vow” “was not a harmless gaffe.” Instead, it’s “part of a broad and deliberate amnesia,” Hunter writes. “Refusing to be honest about how racial inequality has burdened our shared history and continues to shape our society will not get us to that post-racial vision.” Read the full column. (More slavery stories.)

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