This is a carefully worded sentence:
“We have only limited ability to know the context and details of such long term relationships between enslaved women and slaveholders, but we must assume that Beckett and other women calculated the risks and possibilities of using sexual connections to negotiate manumissions.”
From: Millward, Jessica. Finding Charity’s Folk: Enslaved and Free Black Women in Maryland. University of Georgia Press, 2015, p. 24.
Which does not mean enslaved women succeeded in securing manumissions.
Which does not mean sex with slaveowners was consensual (to the extent we can conceive of consent in a world of slaves).
It means we must assume they CONSIDERED the implications of using sex to negotiate manumissions. Because they, as theorists and intellectuals and critical resistance thinkers, could critique the system of bondage from the ground just as well as–better than–we can critique it from across time and through archives.
And we should take them seriously as theorists and intellectuals and critical resistance thinkers.
I love this sentence.