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The Mark of SlaveryDisability, Race, and Gender in Antebellum America$
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Jenifer L. Barclay

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043727

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043727.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 30 June 2022

Reimagined Communities

Reimagined Communities

Disability and the Making of Slave Families, Communities, and Culture

(p.36) 2 Reimagined Communities
The Mark of Slavery

Jenifer L. Barclay

University of Illinois Press

This chapter argues that the social relations of disability had a profound and long overlooked effect on slave families, communities, and culture. Dismissed and deemed worthless by slaveholders, enslaved people with disabilities occupied a marginalized but uniquely empowered social space. They often escaped sale and provided important labor to their families and communities, representing stability and social cohesion to vulnerable communities threatened by separation and disruption. Shared experiences of disability banded smaller groups of enslaved people together, sometimes across different types of impairment. Broader understandings of certain conditions such as blindness and dwarfism as markers of spiritual power meant that disability figured prominently in healing practices like conjuration and suggest how perceptions of the body played a role in African cultural retentions.

Keywords:   African cultural retentions, Blindness, community-centered labor, conjuration, dwarfism, slave communities, slave culture, slave families, social relations, social cohesion

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