Mentor: Carmen Buford, Ph.D. - Professor of American Studies
At the Intersection of Race and Gender: Women's Experiences in American Slavery and the Holocaust
The experiences of female victims of American slavery and the Holocaust occurred at the intersection of race and gender. For the women who experienced each event, racism and sexism combined and created a unique oppression that was neither singularly racism, nor sexism.
Traditional scholarship in each separate field has focused narrowly on the dynamics of racism. Additionally, while purporting to explore a gender-neutral, "victim" experience, the scholarship has actually been male-centered. Only recently have non-sexist and feminist historians identified, and begun to correct, the absence of female experiences in each event. These attempts may rectify the sexism in traditional scholarship; however, a new approach is still necessary. In order to better understand these women's experiences, scholars must acknowledge them as having occurred at the intersection of race and gender.
Keeping in mind that intersection, the discussion revolves around three major issues--motherhood, sexual exploitation, and resistance. Women's experiences as mothers and with sexual exploitation illuminate the sexism inherent in the racist ideology of both events. It is also important to remember and understand the ways in which women resisted their unique oppression.
Ideally, this discussion will add to the understanding of women's experiences in each separate field, spark a dialogue between the two fields of study, and identify a need for a widespread examination of experiences which lie at crucial intersections.