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90CIVIL WAR HISTORY McLaurin has helped us to clarify the tensions that slaveholders increasingly faced in their efforts to reconcile these two sides of slaveownership. Much of McLaurin's work is understandably speculative, both as regards his efforts to deduce the attitudes of white family members without any direct primary evidence from them, as well as in his efforts to embed these attitudes within the larger social framework of the sectional crisis. It is nonetheless curious that while he assumes, for lack of evidence, that the white women of the Newsome family in no way identified with the plight of the sexually abused Celia, he also assumes, with a similar lack of evidence, that Celia's lawyer, a slaveowner of roughly similar age and status of her abusing owner, probably viewed her with his own daughter in mind. Here we confront what is perhaps the ultimate injustice of patriarchal systems. For however much they empower some men to abuse the subordinate members of their own households and of the society at large, they also empower other men to mitigate these excesses of their peers and thereby to construct themselves, and patriarchal domination in general, as ultimately benevolent. It is thus left to the relatively disempowered, the white women or even the black men in this case, to carry the burden of the really biting shame and guilt for society's abuse of the most powerless of their own kind. LeeAnn Whites University of Missouri-Columbia Ambiguous Lives: Free Women of Color in Rural Georgia, 1789-1879. By Adele Logan Alexander. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1991. Pp. xiii, 268. $23.00.) Adele Logan Alexander has written a book that explores the complex world of free women of mixed heritage who lived in rural Middle Georgia through slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Alexander argues that women of color, usually a blend of African-American, NativeAmerican and/or Caucasian ancestry, represent "an atypical splinter group—a small intermediary caste within a social, economic, and legal system deliberately structured to include only the polar extremes of those who were black and enslaved, or white and free" (7-8). Because they were neither black nor white, free women of color walked a fine line between both worlds. Their parentage and lighter skin shielded them from the harsh realities of antebellum slave culture. They rarely toiled in the fields but entered into long-term committed relationships with white men, bore several children, and benefitted financially. After the Civil War, however, women of color and their families faced the same problems as other African Americans. Beset with enforced segregation and other Jim Crow restrictions , women of color often congregated in areas with other people of color, which set them apart from other African Americans. BOOK REVIEWS91 Alexander's thesis is supported by a genealogical study of the Hunt and Sayre families. The main character, Susan Hunt, was descended from a Native-American mother and an African-American father. She became the mistress of Nathan Sayre, a wealthy white businessman, lawyer, judge, and politician, who never married. His liaison with Hunt was not his first with a woman of color but was one that lasted until his death. Their relationship produced three children. The family lived in the opulent Pomegranate Hall sometime after 1830, and the children attended school and learned to play musical instruments. Upon the death of Sayre in 1853, Susan Hunt, with no visible means of support, moved in with the white widower James M. Hunt. Sayre deeded a lot to Hunt in 1878, and when he died, Susan received railroad stock, ensuring her financial security for the remainder of her life. One of Susan Hunt's children, Miriah, followed in her mother's footsteps and established a permanent relationship with a white man. From this union, eight children were born. One of them, the author's grandmother , Adella Hunt Logan, graduated from Atlanta University, taught at Tuskegee Institute, and was a strong advocate of female suffrage. Alexander's story is enlightening, compelling, and intriguing but raises more questions than it answers. The "peculiar institution's" delineation of race distinctions did not include people of color as a separate entity and therefore did...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 90-92
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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