The stories of White men exploiting enslaved Black women are often included in historical accounts on film and in books, such as the rape of Kizzy in “Roots,” and Patsy in “12 Years a Slave.” In “Rethinking Rufus,” Howard University professor Thomas A. Foster explores sexual violence against enslaved men.
“My research is based on documents that were created during the era of slavery or that have direct testimony from formerly enslaved people,” Foster told Port Of Harlem. His talk will “focus on forced and coerced reproduction.” However, he added, “The book covers abuses by White men and White women.”
In a special presentation, Foster will reveal that sexual assault of enslaved men also occurred systematically and in a wide variety of forms, including physical assault, sexual coercion, and other intimate violations. The talk takes place at Alexandria’s History Museum at the Lyceum, 201 South Washington Street. The event is Saturday, February 29, at 11 a.m. Admission is $5.
To tell the story of men such as Rufus, who was coerced into a sexual union with an enslaved woman, Rose, Foster interrogates a range of sources on slavery: early American newspapers, court records, enslavers' journals, abolitionist literature, the testimony of formerly enslaved people collected in autobiographies and in interviews, and various forms of artistic representation.
Foster's sustained examination of how Black men were sexually violated by both White men and White women makes an important contribution to our understanding of masculinity, sexuality, the lived experience of enslaved men, and the general power dynamics fostered by the institution of slavery.