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Obsidian Blue

Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

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The Three Faces of Black Women

Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era - Tiya Miles

Wow. Tiya Miles does a very good job of showcasing some of the popular ghost plantation tours in her book and dissecting them. I honestly didn't even get that ghost trails were a thing let alone ghost plantation tours.


Miles shows that for the most part, the stories told about slaves were not truthful at all, or if there are some truth to things (Delphine Lalaurie) some parts were embellished. She also gets into looking at how many African American women were portrayed in these stories. They were either Mammies, Jezebels, or Voodoo queens. They were shown to be sneaking, lying, or trying to seduce the poor slave owner and take him away from his wife.


I loved that she showed historical evidence and context in her book and showed that many things we believe about the south and plantations is fiction. It wasn't Gone With the Wind, people owned others and treated them terribly. You had to worry about being raped, being forced to "breed", and having your family sold off from you. It's still mind boggling to me anyone would be interested in doing any type of plantation tour. 


Miles is able to peel back stories told about Molly and Matilda (see Sorrel-Weed House in Savannah), Delphine Lalaurie (see Lalaurie Mansion in New Orleans), and Chloe and Cleo (Mrytles Plantation in Louisana) and have you see them as living and breathing women. If you are interested in hearing about these women, you can Google and include the word "ghost" and see what pops up. I do concur with Miles findings though and don't believe that most of the people described in this stories existed besides Matilda and Delphine. 


I really loved the writing and there were a lot of passages I highlighted in this book.


"African American bondsmen and bondswomen had been transformed into virtual ghosts, absent and yet eerily present in historical tours as invisible laboring bodies that made their owners’ fortunes shine."


"Enslaved black women on plantations were particularly vulnerable. Historians of black women in slavery have detailed the pervasiveness of sexual coercion and rape in a system that not only offered no legal protection for black women but also rewarded masters economically for forced sex and impregnation that resulted in the growth of the slave population."


I also loved that Miles included some information about Native Americas too. 


"The enslaved African American ghost is the Indian ghost’s double. While the red ghost keeps alive the memory of Indian removal in U.S. history, representing white “terror and lament,” the black ghost marks the demonic spirit of possession through which Americans transformed people into things."


I also never really thought too much about who was behind that whole Mammy thing that many people in the south seemed to talk about. Those that read and saw "The Help" showed that it got pushed into another generation until the Civil Rights Movement. Black women are either supposed to be motherly or we are shown as being "fast", or angry if we dare to speak up for ourselves. It's frustrating to be a black woman in this world right now. 


"As scholarship on black women’s history shows, the Mammy myth was called into discursive being by defenders of slavery in the 1830s who sought to challenge abolitionist critiques of the sexual abuse of slave women. Mammy’s image was embellished by memoirs of slaveholders’ children published during the Civil War as well as by tributes to her memory in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the Aunt Jemima pancake-mix brand and plans for a national Mammy memorial spurred by the Daughters of the Confederacy."

The locations that Miles goes to in order to investigate this ghost plantation tours are Old Savannah, the French Quarter, and Louisiana plantations.