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African American Women in the Domestic Service Industry during Reconstruction. An Intersectional Analysis

Kathryn Small, James Madison University

African American Women in the Domestic Service Industry during Reconstruction. An Intersectional Analysis.

My paper focuses on the experiences of African American women, within the workplace, during Reconstruction. Whilst the Civil War resulted in the emancipation of the African American population, the day-to-day attainment of freedom posed a very different reality, most notably in respect of limited opportunities for economic advancement. All working women of this time were subjected to discrimination. However, black women were especially discriminated against due to their race. Most markedly, this can be seen in the fact that work opportunities available to black women were restricted to domestic service. There, under the direct control of likely former masters, they were exploited by long working hours, unreasonable workloads and extremely low wages. This working environment arguably mimicked conditions of labour under slavery. The intersection of race and gender discrimination worked to limit the freedom of African American women, and can be referenced to aid the understanding of racism in U.S history.