Broken Black Bodies: African American Women, Intimate Violence, and the Embodied Legibility of Care in the (Post)-Slavery Archive

February 15, 2023

7:00 p.m. ET

Virtual Event | Free

The scholarship on African Americans and violence in the post Civil war South centers almost exclusively on the lynching of Black men. This book length project expands the terrain of the post war experience by focusing on intimate partner violence among African Americans. By using the transnational feminist methodologies of “critical fabulation,” “illegibility,” and “archives of difference,” this project discusses how African American women experienced, interpreted, and survived intimate partner violence in the first 50 years after slavery. This project is based on local court testimony and petitions made to the Freedman’s Bureau by African American women in the state of Georgia. Given that Emancipation was the first time that formerly enslaved people possessed legal rights to their own bodies, what did it mean for African American women to use the courts to adjudicate interactions in their private worlds? As this project reveals, despite the fact that the 15th Amendment denied African American women the right to vote, they used the courts to advance their own form of legal personhood. Moreover, the seemingly illegibility of African American women in the archive holds ramifications for the inability to see gendered violence in the contemporary era of Black Lives Matter.

Dr. Jessica Millward is an American historian who focuses on African American history, early America, African diaspora, slavery, and gender. Her work focuses on the female slave experience by emphasizing narratives of Black women during slavery. Dr. Millward is an associate professor in the history department in the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine.

Closed captioning will be provided.

Sponsored by the Program in African American History


Feb 15 2024


7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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The Library Company of Philadelphia
1300 Locust St., 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm


The Library Company of Philadelphia
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