[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

White slavery trope

This page investigates the mythology surrounding white slavery, mythology in painting, literature and moral panics.

Related: damsel in distress trope - economic exploitation - The Eliza Armstrong case - moral panic - odalisque - orientalism - prostitution - slavery - white slavery film - "yelow peril" trope - white

Titles: Lustful Turk (1828)

What is called white slavery has now become a favorite topic of dinner table conversation in "our best circles." It is not yet being made on the children's games in the kindergartens, but doubtless will be before long. The stage, always looking for new material and new territory to invade, has seized upon this luscious topic with avidity. --James Metcalfe, Life Magazine, 1913, quoted in Sisters in Sin : Brothel Drama in America, 1900-1920 (2006) - Katie N. Johnson

In North Africa, the main slave markets were in Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli and Cairo. Sales were held in public places or in souks. Potential buyers made a careful examination of the "merchandise": they checked the state of health of a person who was often standing naked with wrists bound together. Prices varied according to the slave's quality. White women were considered more valuable than other women. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_slave_trade#Slave_markets_and_fairs [Jun 2006]

The great Odalisque (1814) Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


Forced prostitution. --AHD

White slavery is a 19th century term for a form of slavery involving the sexual abuse of women held as captives and forced into prostitution.

Although this form of abuse did occur in reality (and still does: see the article sexual slavery for this topic), the name "white slavery" is usually used to refer to the original use of the term in a moral panic in late 19th century and early 20th century United States, where there was a perception that this form of abuse was a danger to every young woman. In this moral panic, the selected scapegoats were Chinese immigrants, who were stereotyped and demonized as white slavers (eg: Thoroughly Modern Millie).

Such accusations have also been frequently applied against Jewish men and appear in a great deal of anti-Semitic propaganda.

White slavery did not originally refer to race; in modern usage, however, it often refers to the sexual slavery of white women by non-white men.

The term white slavery is also used in revisionist and white supremacy literature to refer to any slavery of people with light skin. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_slavery [Apr 2005]

Circassian beauties

In 1856 The New York Daily Times reported that a consequence of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus was a glut of beautiful Circassian women on the Constantinople slave market, and that this was causing prices of slaves in general to plummet. At the time, this region was reputed by less reliable sources to be the source of the purest Caucasian stock, producing the most beautiful white women, prized in Turkish harems.

The combination of the popular issues of slavery, the Orient, and sexual titillation gave this report some notoriety at the time. Circus leader P. T. Barnum capitalized on this interest, displaying a "Circassian Beauty" at his American Museum in 1865. The trend spread, with supposedly Circassian women featured in dime museums and travelling medicine shows, sometimes known as "Moss-haired girls". Most likely these were local girls hired by the shows. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circassian_beauties [Jan 2006]

See also: 1856 - white slavery trope - beauty - orientalism

White slavery as moral panic

See entry on moral panic

White slavery scare
In the mid-19th century in the U.S., there was a white slavery scare which suggested that large numbers of white women were being kidnapped and forced into prostitution. The prevalence of this practice was greatly exaggerated due to xenophobia, and this phenomenon is generally regarded today as having been an example of a moral panic.

In fact, at that time, the US victims of sexual slavery were overwhelmingly women of African descent, held as slaves, often purchased with sexual exploitation as the primary goal. A supposedly true story of one such girl, purchased as a sexual slave when she was fourteen, is told in Celia, A Slave by Melton A. Mclaurin, and such practice is also widely referred to in other literature discussing the era, for instance Roots by Alex Haley. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_slavery#Sexual_slavery_in_North_America [Jun 2005]

see also: 1888 - odalisque - white - slave

Mann Act (USA) prohibited so-called white slavery

The Mann Act of 1910 prohibited so-called white slavery - the practice of European girls working in American bordellos. It also banned the interstate transport of females for immoral purposes. Its primary intent was to address prostitution and immorality.

The Mann Act gets its name from James Robert Mann, an American lawmaker.

The law has come under criticism from civil libertarians who feel the law is and undo federal infringement and violates the states’ discretion in setting their own age of consent laws. Some have also charged that enforcement of the law has been racially biased, since many of the more notable people prosecuted have been successful African Americans.

The first person prosecuted under the act was heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, who encouraged a woman to leave a brothel and travel with him to another state. Though he later married the girl, and took her away from a brothel, he was nevertheless prosecuted and sentenced to a year in prison.

Pioneering sociologist William I. Thomas's academic career at the University of Chicago was irreversibly damaged after he was arrested under the act when caught in the company of one Mrs Granger, the wife of an army officer with the American forces in France, although he was later acquitted in court. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mann_Act [Jun 2005]

Marxism and white slavery

It is in this sense that Karl Marx argues that "prostitution is only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the labourer," and hence casts the capitalist as white slaver.

The earliest such use I have found is Richard Oastler's A Letter on the Horrors of White Slavery (Leeds: J. Smithson, 1830); the latest is Wile Britton's The White Slavery; a Study of the Present Trades Union System (1909). Quotation from Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, quoted in Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 223. --via http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~epf/1996/wslavery.html [Jun 2005]

See also: Marxism

Orientalism and white slavery

Selling Slaves in Rome (1886) - Jean-Léon Gérôme

The White Slave (1888) - Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte de Nouy
image sourced here.

An odalisque was a female slave or concubine in the harem of the Turkish sultan. The origin of the word appears to be French, from the Turkish odaliq, meaning a chambermaid, from oda, a chamber or room. The word is also written as odahlic, odalisk, and odalik.

Slave Auction in Rome () - Jean-Léon Gérôme
Hermitage, St Petersburg

In Western culture odalisques became common 19th century fantasy figures in the artistic movement known as Orientalism; they feature in many erotic paintings from that era.
image sourced here.

Le marché aux esclaves / Slave Market (1866) - Jean-Léon Gérôme

Achat D'Une Esclave / Purchase Of A Slave (1857) - Jean-Léon Gérôme

Babylonian Marriage Market (1875) - Edwin Long

Edwin Long's painting Babylonian Marriage Market depicts the auction of girls for marriage. When it was first shown at the Royal Academy in 1875 it caused a sensation. --http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/2004_44_fri_02.shtml [Jun 2005]

Even after the occupation of Algiers, white slavery remained an argument in favor of the ongoing campaign. In their Voyage pittoresque dans la Regence d'Alger, published in 1835, Emile Lessore and William Wyld depicted the former haunts of Barbary corsairs and the slave market in the Place Juba. The accompanying text congratulated the French for ridding Algiers of these slave traders. (135) Vacherot exhibited his picture of the slave market at the Salon of 1841. (136) Under the haughty gaze of a Turkish client, a white odalisque, naked apart from a white sheet drawn across her midsection, reclines in the foreground, immediately in front of a black woman with clasped hands. Prints deploring the slave trade, such as Vente d'esclaves from 1838 by Nicolas Eustache Maurin, featured the same repertory of characters: scantily dressed women supplicating their captors or prospective purchasers (Fig. 10). This racial contrast is central to the series of pictures set in the harem that Chasseriau painted after his return from Algeria. (137) In the mural, his juxtaposition of a black captive with her arms drawn up to her face and the defenseless white flesh of her fellow prisoners echoes the racial diversity of, and the positions assumed by Maurin's female slaves. It is above all in Chasseriau's adoption of the exposed and vulnerable back of the woman in the left of the lithograph for the central figures of his mural that suggests the imprint of the Barbary slave trade in The Return of the Captives. Chasseriau took Maurin's figure and duplicated her, giving the unbound hair cascading down her back to one of his faceless captives and the erotically charged drapery slung low across her naked hips to the other. (138) --http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0422/is_4_86/ai_n8680934/pg_8 [Jun 2005]

Greek Slave (1844) - Hiram Powers

Greek Slave (1844) - Hiram Powers
Image sourced here.

Hiram Powers (1805 - 1873) was a U.S. neoclassical sculptor.

In 1843 he produced his celebrated Greek Slave, which at once gave him a place among the leading sculptors of his time. It was exhibited at the centre of the Crystal Palace Exhibition and Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sonnet on it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiram_Powers [Jun 2006]

This sculpture by Hiram Powers was perhaps the most popular American work of art at mid-century. Over one hundred thousand people paid to see it during its 1847-1848 tour around the country. Powers himself supplied this gloss on the statue's sensational subject--a woman on sale as a sexual object. --http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/sentimnt/grslvhp.html [Jun 2006]

Virginian Slave (c. 1851) - Punch satirical cartoon
Image sourced here.

The Greek Slave profoundly affected the public, leading a poet H.S.C. to begin a poem: "Naked yet clothed with chastity, / She stands." This admiring sentiment certainly seemed the more prevalent one. The Greek Slave's immense popularity allowed journalists to use it as an icon to press other issues, such as the immoral slavery in the United States with the Punch cartoon depicting the "Virginian Slave." --http://www.victorianweb.org/gender/chains.html [Jun 2006]

See also: 1844 - Greece - slave - sculpture - American art

Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) - George Roy Hill

Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) - George Roy Hill [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Plot Outline Millie comes to town in the roaring twenties to encounter flappers, sexuality and white slavers.

Set in 1922, the story revolves around the adventures of Millie Dillmount, who escapes to New York City from Kansas determined to get a job as a stenographer in order to marry her wealthy boss. Shedding her country girl clothing for the modern look of a "flapper", she takes a room at the Priscilla Hotel for Women, unaware it's a front for a prostitution ring. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoroughly_Modern_Millie [Jun 2006]

See also: 1922 - 1967 - roaring twenties - flapper - jazz age - white slavery

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications