|Cheyney McKnight (Photo: LoomHappenings)|
Today, we are very excited to share our newest episode for Fashion History with American Duchess! In April, Abby got a chance to sit down with her lovely friend, Cheyney McKnight of Not Your Momma’s History, to discuss enslaved women (& men’s) dress and clothing in the 18th and 19th century. Cheyney has been represented enslaved women in both centuries for a few years now, and has graciously shared her wealth of knowledge and experience in the field with us.
Here are some bullet points from our conversation:
– Shift in terminology among living historians from “slave” to “enslaved person/woman/man/people” as a way to give humanity to those held in bondage.
– How slavery in the USA was different than what has ever been seen before – “hereditary chattel slavery” & how it is passed down through the maternal line, even though the society at large was paternal.
|Cheyney McKnight (Here)|
– While slavery in the USA spanned approx. 250 years – the transatlantic slave trade ended in 1807- which then saw the rise of “natural increase”.
– Around the Revolutionary War (1770s) there were estimated 400,000 enslaved people in the USA. By the Antebellum Period it was 3.9 million. This comes out to a 25 – 30% population increase per year, and enslaved women at this time were giving birth, on average, to 9-10 children in their lifetime.
– We discuss the historical significance of the term “Going down river”
– Slave owners are buying fabric in bulk from manufacturers in UK/Europe to provide clothing allotments.
– Hierarchy of dress in the enslaved community.
– The textile related “reward system” that existed for enslaved people by the master of the household (child birth, tattle telling, work production, etc)
|The Old Plantation, by John Rose, c. 1785, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1935.301.3|
-Dress as a form of Resistance within the enslaved community.
– Trading of clothing and textile within the enslaved family group in households.
-What were the common textiles that enslaved people wore. (You can find Osnaburg Linen Here)
– How dress of freedmen and women differed from those who were enslaved.
|Miss Breme Jones, 1785-87, by John Rose, Beaufort County South Carolina, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2008.300.1|
Finally, Cheyney has been doing a great deal of research on different types of headwraps seen in images of enslaved women, and has begun documenting her recreation of them. She was kind enough to share some pictures & her citations below:
|Cheyney experimenting with different 18th century head wrap styles.|
|Head Wrap inspired by: Portrait of a Young Woman, St. Louis Art Museum|
|Not Your Momma’s History Youtube Tutorial (Starts at 17:45)|
|Not Your Momma’s History Youtube Tutorial (Around 19:00)|
A Mississippi Planter. June 1851. “Management of Negroes Upon Southern Estates.”
De Bow’s Southern journal and Western Review, 621-625.
Boturne, E. H. First Days Among the Contrabands. Boston: Lee and Shepard
Publishers, 1893. Print
Olmstead, F. L. The Cotton Kingdom: A Travellers Observations on Cotton and
Slavery in the American Slave States. N.Y: Mason Bros., 1861. Print
Kemble, F A. A Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation, 1838-1839. N.Y: Harper
& Brothers. 1863.
Wares, L. J. 1981. “Dress of the African-American Woman in Slavery and Freedom:
1500- 1935.” Dissertation: Purdue University.
Abrahams, Roger D. Singing the master: the emergence of African American culture in
the plantation south. New York: Penguin , 1993. Print.
Genovese, Eugene D. Roll, Jordan, roll: the world the slaves made. S.I.: Paw Prints,
White, Shane, and Graham J. White. Stylin: African American Expressive Culture from its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit. Ithaca, NY: Cornell U Press, 1999. Print.
Foster, Helen Bradley. New raiments of self African American clothing in the antebellum South. Oxford: Berg, 1997. Print.
The Old Plantation, attributed to John Rose (ca. 1785–90), Beaufort County, South
Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Cultivating Tobacco, Sketchbook, III, 33, ca. 1797.
Agostino Brunias (Italian, ca. 1730-1796). Free Women of Color with Their Children
and Servants in a Landscape, ca. 1770-1796. Oil on canvas
Agostino Brunias (Italian, ca. 1730-1796). Linen Market, Dominica ca. 1780