The Long Shadow of Slavery Over Women and Girls

In the United States, many people think slavery is a thing of the past and its effects are over. But more and more people are recognizing that past slavery still affects present society. A few policy analysts have begun to discuss how most effectively to address the long shadow still cast by slavery in our society. Whenever a society’s economy depends upon slavery, and massive slavery exists over a long period of time, the effects will likely be massive and long-lived as well.

Our current research shows that religious support for—and opposition to—slavery influenced slavery itself and even religion. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have traditionally accepted slavery in differing forms. Historically, slave-owners sexually exploited enslaved women and girls, coerced them to give birth and separated families. In the United States., Christianity particularly needs to overcome its legacy of slavery. In order to construct new sexual ethics based on the full human dignity of all persons, we need to analyze how gender, religion, sexuality and slavery are intertwined.

The project’s scholars and activists are now researching:

  • Enslaved women and girls in early Christianity, Judaism and Islam
  • Early Christian female slaveholders
  • Slavery’s impact on early Christian sexual ethics
  • Christianity’s influence on American slavery
  • The religious faith of enslaved women and girls
  • The legacy of slavery in the United States
  • How to create sexual ethics untainted by slave-holding values.

"Slave Profits" © John W. Jones. From Confederate Currency: The Color of Money. Learn more about the artwork.

Content by Bernadette Brooten
Director, Feminist Sexual Ethics Project