Out of the House of Bondage

By Thavolia Glymph,

Book cover of Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household

Book description

The plantation household was, first and foremost, a site of production. This fundamental fact has generally been overshadowed by popular and scholarly images of the plantation household as the source of slavery's redeeming qualities, where 'gentle' mistresses ministered to 'loyal' slaves. This book recounts a very different story. The very…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Out of the House of Bondage as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Out of the House of Bondage destroys the myth of the Southern plantation mistress as a delicate, gentle being presiding over a household maintained by passive, devoted, enslaved women.

A professor of history and law at Duke University, Thavolia Glymph scoured female slaveholders’ diaries and enslaved and freed people’s narratives to expose the mistresses’ use of violence – cowhide whippings, “until she was just a piece of living raw meat”; burning with hot irons, “hot enough to take off flesh”; beating to death a crying baby – and enslaved women’s resistance, perceived then and described later as laziness, misbehavior, and…

I was struck by Glymph’s ability to make visceral the struggles facing African Americans in the years that saw the transition from slavery to freedom.

The book shows you the human side of emancipation, helping you understand why scholarship on the period still has so much more to say. Out of the House of Bondage dives into the social history of the South during emancipation, looking at the violent and complicated relationships between slaveholding women and enslaved people who lived in greatest proximity to them.

A brilliant work defined by its careful attention to its sources, it shows how daily…

From David's list on how the Civil War changed history.

This outstanding book speaks truth to the historical lies animated in the mammy caricature. This includes challenging then-prevailing scholarship that placed the plantation house at a remove from the hard labor, day-to-day brutalities, and systemic violence of American slavery at large, and as a potential site for proto-feminist alliances and mutual support between white and Black women grounded in shared disempowerment under patriarchy.

Through meticulous research and deft argument, Glymph shows the plantation household to be like the field—a place of coerced production and violence—but largely managed and perpetrated by white women. Black women endured and resisted these conditions, transforming…

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