cover of book

The Black Reproductive: Unfree Labor and Insurgent Motherhood
by Sara Clarke Kaplan
University of Minnesota Press, 2021
Paper: 978-0-8166-9569-0 | Cloth: 978-0-8166-9567-6
Library of Congress Classification HQ1163.K37 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.8508996073


How Black women’s reproduction became integral to white supremacy, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy—and remains key to their dismantling

In the United States, slavery relied on the reproduction and other labors of unfree Black women. Nearly four centuries later, Black reproductivity remains a vital technology for the creation, negotiation, and transformation of sexualized and gendered racial categories. Yet even as Black reproduction has been deployed to resolve the conflicting demands of white supremacy, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy, Sara Clarke Kaplan argues that it also holds the potential to destabilize the oppressive systems it is supposed to maintain.

The Black Reproductive convenes Black literary and cultural studies with feminist and queer theory to read twentieth- and twenty-first-century texts and images alongside their pre-emancipation counterparts. These provocative, unexpected couplings include how Toni Morrison’s depiction of infanticide regenders Orlando Patterson’s theory of social death, and how Mary Prince’s eighteenth-century fugitive slave narrative is resignified through the representational paradoxes of Gayl Jones’s blues novel Corregidora. Throughout, Kaplan offers new perspectives on Black motherhood and gendered labor, from debates over the relationship between President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, to the demise of racist icon Aunt Jemima, to discussions of Black reproductive freedom and abortion. 

The Black Reproductive gives vital insight into the historic and ongoing conditions of Black unfreedom, and points to the possibilities for a Black feminist practice of individual and collective freedom.

Nearby on shelf for The Family. Marriage. Women / Women. Feminism: