I first became acutely aware of the gendered gap in our understanding of sexualized violence under slavery in my history of sexuality course at DePaul University. It was with those undergraduate students and repeated discussions of the interview with Rose Williams and the existing scholarship on the sexual assault of enslaved women that I began to suspect that we were not thinking about the complete story—and that the interview might also be able to help us ponder Rufus’s experiences. That I studied the topic at all is largely due to conversations with Marlon Henry in which he expressed his belief that enslaved men were exploited and assaulted by enslavers. His conceptualization of the sexual violence of slavery was not represented in the extant scholarly literature and derived from his understanding of slavery and human nature. I decided to see if contemporary fictionalized instances of sexual violence against enslaved men could be found in historical accounts.
My research was initially published as an exploratory article in a special issue for the Journal of the History of Sexuality, edited by Ramón Gutiérrez. I am indebted to Ramón and the participants of the conference related to that special issue for their suggestions on that essay. That article would not have become a book had it not been for the encouragement of Daina Berry and participants in two related conferences, “Sexuality and Slavery: Exposing the History of Enslaved People in the Americas” (University of Texas at Austin, 2011) and “Working Group on Slavery and Freedom” (Humanities Institute, CUNY Graduate Center, 2012). It was in those forums that I first became motivated to attempt to expand the initial article.
I could never have managed to handle the administrative duties as a department chair and continued to make progress on this book without the support of research assistants. They kept the project moving along even when I could not turn to it on a daily basis. I am indebted to the careful and dogged research over the years of a small army of undergraduate and graduate students at De-Paul University, including Felipe Agudelo, Callie Bretthauer, Nathan Christensen, Ramiro Hernandez, Scott Jones, Kristen Masterson, and Kasia Szymanska. Daina Berry’s graduate students, Nakia “Nikki” Parker and Signe Peterson Fourmy, tracked down what little we could find in records about Rufus in Texas after emancipation.
A number of historians gave freely of their time to share feedback on earlier drafts of chapters or to share relevant archival cases, including Sharon Block, Trevor Burnard, Frances M. Clarke, Jim Downs, Marisa Fuentes, Leslie Harris, Martha Hodes, Vanessa Holden, Jessica M. Johnson, Jen Manion, Seth Rock-man, Joshua D. Rothman, Honor Sachs, John Saillant, James Schuelke, Loren Schweninger, David Shields, Terry Snyder, Christine Walker, Emily West, Lisa Ze Winters, and Betty Wood. I would also like to thank the talented staff at the University of Georgia Press, the anonymous external reviewers, and the editors for the series Gender and Slavery, Daina Berry and Jennifer Morgan.
I am also thankful for the very helpful staff at the History Society of Pennsylvania, the Kentucky State Archives, the Library of Congress, the Library of Virginia, the National Archives, the New York Public Library, and the North Carolina State Archives. I’m also grateful for the speed with which various permission holders processed rights to use their images and for high-resolution files (see individual images for details).
Conference participants and audience members at a number of conferences helped me develop, test, and hone my arguments and analysis in ways that they could never imagine. I am grateful to those individuals, to the organizers, and to DePaul University and Howard University for support to travel and participate in the following conferences: “Male Bonds in Nineteenth-Century Art” (Ghent University, Museum of Fine Arts, May 2018); “QP7” (Grand Cayman, June 2016); “Gay American History @40” (Humanities Action Lab at the New School for Public Engagement, CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies at CUNY Graduate Center, and OutHistory.org, May 5–6, 2016); “Sexual Violence: An Interdisciplinary Conference” (Virginia Tech, April 2016); “Historicising Rape Conference” (University of Cardiff, July 2015); “American Circuits, American Secrets” (University of Alberta, Banff, Canada, September 2014); “New Directions in the Humanities” (University of San Pablo CEU, Madrid, June 2014); “Working Group on Slavery and Freedom” (Humanities Institute, CUNY Graduate Center, October 4–6, 2012); and “Sexuality and Slavery: Exposing the History of Enslaved People in the Americas” (University of Texas at Austin, November 11–12, 2011).
An adapted version of chapter 2 appeared as “‘No Man Can Be Prevented from Visiting His Wife’: Henry Butler and Enslaved Manliness in Family and Intimacy,” in Rethinking America’s Past: Voices from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection, ed. Timothy Gruenewald (Cincinnati, Ohio: University of Cincinnati Press, 2019). A version of material included in chapter 5, “‘Till I Had Mastered Every Part’: Valets, Vulnerability, and Same-Gender Relations under Slavery,” has been previously published in Bee Scherer, ed., Queering Paradigms VII (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2018).
Equally important to my progress was the encouragement that came from invited lectures. I thank the organizer for those important visits at Yale-NUS College; Lawrence Henry Gipson Institute for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Lehigh University; Hong Kong University, January 2017; Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK; and the Cambridge University American History Seminar, Cambridge, UK, October 11, 2016.
Discussions via Skype with graduate and undergraduate students at several universities also nurtured my thinking about the ways that enslaved men were sexually violated, including T. Hasan Johnson’s undergraduate seminar AFRS 139: The Black Male Experience, California State University at Fresno, February 2018; Catherine Jacquet’s undergraduate seminar WGS 4500: Gender, Violence, & Resistance, Louisiana State University, January 2017; and Daina R. Berry’s graduate course HIS 392: Gender, Slavery, & Sexuality, University of Texas at Austin, March 2015. In-person visits to the Pembroke Center at Brown University, thanks to Seth Rockman, and Cornelia Dayton’s graduate seminar at the University of Connecticut were also very helpful.
For funding, I would like to thank the Council of Independent Colleges and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Summer Institute, Slave Narratives, Yale University, July 2015 (and David Blight and the participants, especially Martha Eads and Kevin McGruder, for their comments regarding Giles’s narrative). The Graduate Research Assistant Program, Social Science Research Center, Undergraduate Research Assistant Grants, College of Liberal Arts, and the Competitive Research Grants Program, University Research Council, all at DePaul University, provided much-needed funding for conference travel and research.
For key visual culture sources, I am extraordinarily grateful to David Bind-man and Henry Louis Gates Jr. for their research and invaluable insights in their multi volume set, The Image of the Black in Western Art (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2011).