Current Institutional Affiliation
Research & Policy Analyst, Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Tulane University
Bittersweet Childhoods: Slave Youth on Nineteenth-Century Sugar Plantations in Martinique and Louisiana

My dissertation project examines the cultural and social experiences of enslaved children on sugar plantations in Martinique and Louisiana in the nineteenth century. My research argues that changing notions of childhood and the place of children in the family and society in the 18th and 19th century affected the lives of enslaved youth in the half-century before emancipation. This project shows that children were involved in all aspects of plantation society, even if in markedly different ways than their adult counterparts. Though not spared slavery's bitterness, the status of young slaves as children conferred them some privileges, notably more leisure time and less labor requirements than their adult counterparts. At the same time, children were less productive and less valuable than adults, and planters also refrained from investing in their health and well being. The central question guiding this project is: How did age inform slaves' multifaceted experiences of slavery? In other words, how did their status as children affect their workload, their access to free time, and their relations not only within their families and communities, but also with whites in and out of the plantation? In order to do so, I offer a socio-cultural analysis of slave children's experience by using 19th-century literary sources discussing children and the family in Europe and the United States but also in West Africa, to contextualize and understand the social experiences of slave children found in plantation records, judicial sources, and notarized documents.