African Americans and birth control

African American women and their participation in the birth control movement reflects the convergence of a dark history of sexual and reproductive abuse and Black women’s fight for bodily autonomy and reproductive control. Prominent historical figures and Black communities debated whether Black Americans would benefit from birth control or if birth control was another methodical scheme put in place to suppress the African American community.

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Early uses of sexual and reproductive violence during slavery and Jim Crow as birth control

During slavery enslaved Black men and women both were subjected to many acts of legalized sexual and reproductive violence. An estimated 58% of enslaved women and girls, aged 15 to 30, experienced sexual assault at the hands of slave owners and other white men. The United States chattel slavery system treated Black women as breeding machines to meet the demands of the economic system built from their labor. Through arranged marriages, forced sexual encounters with other enslaved people, and rape from slave owners, enslaved African American women were subject to frequent sexual exploitation. They were not given a choice when it pertained to their sexuality and reproductive rights--who they had sexual relationships with, when, and the outcomes of those sexual relations. The women were blamed for these experiences as white male masters developed the "Jezebel" stereotype, minimizing Black women to passionate, hypersexual beings who wanted to engage in sexual acts with anyone and everyone.

Men were not exempt from this heinous syst... ...read more

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