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Soul Murder and Slavery

            Slavery in North America not only had an undeniable impact on the African slaves beginning in the 1600s, but the more than 260 years of slavery resulted in substantial consequences for American society as a whole. Nell Irvin Painter's essay, "Soul Murder and Slavery: Toward a Fully Loaded Cost Accounting, " explores the psychological damage inflicted on African slaves and slave-owning families as a result of the institution of slavery. Painter uses the phrase "Soul Murder " to describe this irreversible damage indicated by depression, lack of self-esteem, and suppressed anger that together lead to a loss of individualism. Painter's essay outlines the "Soul Murder " of both Africans and Americans as well as other residual consequences subjected upon America because of slavery.
             Painter introduces the idea that a slave-owner's wife often felt victimized when her husband was interested in a slave woman. Women during this time period had very little power and sometimes even felt threatened by slave women. In fact, both women and slaves were idealized to have the same sort of demeanor in this era: obedience and submission. Men were thought to have seen women as "interchangeable " and did not care whether a woman was white or African. Slave women were often less trouble because they were forced to do anything their masters pleased where white women technically had to consent to sexual activities. White women often felt contempt towards African women and saw themselves as victims of adultery. Painter also argues that African women may have had even more influence or power than white women of the time. American women as mentioned above were ideally submissive and followed rule of their husbands and fathers. Higher education was mostly limited to wealthy white men. African women had more opportunity in the slave community in that they could band together and formulate ideas. White women were affected by slavery psychologically because they felt worthless.

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