Enslaved Women and Subversion- Stella Dadzie

Entry Question

Do you have a particular life hack that helps you regain time for yourself, your loved ones, and the activities you care about?

Enslaved Women and Subversion: the Violence of Turbulent Women

In her chapter, Stella Dadzie presents a number of quotidian cases in which enslaved women presented opposition to slavery, subverted plantation hierarchies, resisted labor exploitation, and worked toward manumission (buying their freedom). Dadzie also looks at escapes, conspirations, and insurrections. Lastly, she examines how many enslaved women were conveyors of culture and spiritual and healing rituals. She considers these practices as forms of rebellion too because colonial and plantation systems were designed to discourage or fully eliminate African and Afro-descendants’ cultural knowledge.

Some examples from Dadzie’s chapter:

.refusing to do assigned tasks or going to strike (114-5)

.disobedience and negligence (119-21)

.physical or psychological retaliation (116)

.using domestic intimacy and sexual labor as a way to gain freedom (118-9)

.escapes (122-4)

.plotting and instigating rebellions (124-8)

.killing and poisoning their enslavers and overseers (128-30)

.learning new languages and European/colonial cultural practices while preserving theirs (130-2)

Oral presentation on “Enslaved Women and Subversion.”

Mejia De La Cruz,Juan M

Peralta, Monica A

Siddika, Shamma

Group Discussion: chain reactions

How enslaved and (free) folk defy, rebel, and subvert exploitation and oppression on a daily basis?

Briefly discuss examples from Dadzie’s text, the short stories and the novel we read, and/or contemporary examples.

Asynchronous Assignment on Wages Paid (Part IV, V and VI pages 47-72)

Asynchronous Assignment

In the comment section down below  write a response (225-words minimum) to ONE of these prompts (due on 3/16 before class):


Describe the match between Mary and Mr. Johnson. How she uses Mr. Johnson’s fears, anger, prejudices, and/or violence in her favor?


How do you interpret the increasing presence of Jamaican creole in these last parts? How this linguistic factor transforms the short novel? Do you think it is a sign of a changing social structure?


Could the end of the story be considered a revolt against the plantation system? Yes? No? Explain by referring to the text.


How do you interpret the title Wages Paid? Why do you think Carnegie choose that title? What systems of oppression presented by Carnegie in his novella are still present in our societies?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Wages Paid do you want to bring to the discussion?

Wages Paid (Parts III and IV pages 33-59)



Recap: character analysis:

Mr. Johnson: a member of a plantocracy; educated man aware of the latest news from Europe and the Caribbean; immoral (see Césaire); attentive of appearances;  a pessimist and pioneer of the breeding system in Jamaica.

Johnson: cautious with Mr. Johnson; father to many children in the plantation; aware of the repercussions of the breeding system and of the role of women in the forced labor camp; had pride in some of his daughters; had fears of having to copulate one of his daughters or to render her to Mr. Johnson.

Mary: spiteful; focused on revenge against Johnson and Mr. Johnson; she used psychological means and seductive performance to achieve it; she accepted the violent cost of it;

Oral presentation on Wages Paid “Part III Lunch and Part IV Early Afternoon.”

Colon,Amanda A


Part III: Lunch

Group Discussion

Group 1 and 2

How Cho Cho’s analyses the possibilities of rebellion by considering different generations of enslaved people (section VI 41-2)

Group 3 and 4

.How Johnson’s search for his daughter Alice demonstrates a different side of his life at the labor camp? What ideas he meditates on during his walk? How do you interpret the interaction between Johnson, Alice, and Abel? (45-47)

Part IV: Early Afternoon

How Mary achieved the first phase of her revenge against Johnson and Mr. Johnson?

Part IV (Section II 48)

Mary identifies Johnson and Mr. Johnson’s weaknesses: sex; Johnson’s daughter, Alice.

Part IV  (Section IV 49)

“Mary decides to work up a pretext to see Mr. Johnson and get the words  she wanted to his ears and let them stay there.”

“Dis food taste funny.”

Part IV (Section IV 52)

Mr. Johnson thought of how women could pressure men and “tear them apart in ways that were not necessarily physical.”

Part IV (Section VI 52-3)

Mary tells Mister Johnson that one of the enslaved women is “messin with your business.”

Part IV (Section X 53-54)

Mr. Johnson was frightened of poisoning. “Heavy damage in terms of loss of life.”

“She had upset Mr. Johnson, turned the tables on him without his really knowing, while he was feeling that he was in control.”

Part IV (Section XIV 55)

“Mary sneaked that in, nicely, slyly, under Mr. Johnson’s anger. She had successfully got it taken for granted that it was Johnson who was guilty…”

Part IV (Section XV 55)

Mary suggests that Johnson will poison the food again and that he is the one responsible for the spread of venereal diseases. She asks Mr. Johnson what is he going to do?

Part IV (Section XI 56)

“Mary had jolted him badly and caused him personal physical fear that his precarious world was falling.”

Part IV (Section XIII; XIV 56-7)

“You and Johnson really love woman”

“He realized that he was now talking to Mary like an equal.”

Part IV (Sections XVIII; XIX; XX; XXI 58-9)

After being punished, Mary gives the final blow by suggesting that Johnson should have sex with Alice, Johnson’s daughter as a way to get revenge and supposedly to cure his venereal disease.

Wages Paid (Part I and II pages 17-28)- James Carnegie

Written by Jamaican author and intellectual, James Carnegie, and first published in 1976, Wages Paid is a short novel set on a sugar plantation in Jamaica during the 1800s. Mr. Johnson, the owner, commands the bodies of any of the women he wants. He also owns enslaved men as studs and women as breeders. In Carnegie’s story, Mr. Johnson suspects he may have caught the clap from Johnson, his main stud. Mary, the cook, who has created some space for herself through her skills, has reason to want to punish both Johnsons for the way they have treated her. The novella explores gender and sexual abuses in the context of slavery and the construction of masculinity.

Key Concept: Breeding systems

The practices of enslavers of forcing the reproduction of enslaved people to increase their profits. It included coerced sexual relations between enslaved men and women, forced pregnancies, and favoring women who could produce a relatively large number of children. The objective was to increase the number of slaves without incurring the cost of purchase and to fill labor shortages caused by the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade during the early nineteenth century.


Oral presentation on the novella “Wages Paid: Part I Morning and Part II Mid-Morning”(Pages 17-39)

Buttigieg, Lourdes M

Cando, Kevin

Castro, Roky Baltasar

Plantation Society in Wages Paid (Part I 17-28)

.James Carnegie describes the plantation as a forced labor environment in which physical punishment and torture are daily occurrences. (17, 21, 27, 28)

.At Mr. Johnson’s plantation “privileges”  and rivalry exist between the plantation owners and the enslaved and among different enslaved people. Their roles in the plantation and within the breeding system, the proximity and service to Mr. Johnson, as well as gender and colorism were all factors that determined the hierarchy of the place. (18, 19, 20, 24, 25)

.Because of the breeding system in place, syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases were common as well as gender and sexual violence. (18, 19, 22, 23)

Group Work

Wages Paid (Part II 28-39)

In groups describe the background and the physical, psychological, and emotional state of these characters:

.Mr. Johnson (I-V 28-31)

.Mr. Johnson (VI-X 31-33)

.Johnson (33-36)

.Mary (36-39)

Asynchronous Assignment on Midwives and/or Arrowhead by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro

“Midwives” and “Arrowhead” present the exploitation enslaved women endured. As Jessica Marie Johnson argues slavery did not dehumanize the enslaved. “As human, enslaved Africans could be manipulated: their desires could make them pliable. They could be terrorized.” (83)  The stories of Ndizi and Tshanwe show how, as Johnson illustrates, slave traders “required the humanity of their slaves so that the atrocities they visited upon them would matter.” But just like Johnson, Arroyo Pizarro uses her narratives to portrait acts of rebellion and extreme survival.

Asynchronous Assignment

In the comment section down below  write a response (225-words minimum) to ONE of these prompts (due on 3/2 before class):


Johnson argues that “faced with impossible choices, African women, children, and men sometimes found other more devastating ways to be accountable to and for each other… The kinship that joined the enslaved together in the act of self-destruction, reveals practices that responded to and even defied the loss and dispossession of la traversée.” (“La Traversée” 94-5)

How Arroyo Pizarro shows this “self-destructive” kinship and accountability in “Midwives”?


Analyze how Arroyo Pizarro presents sexual labor in “Arrowhead.”


Discuss the different connotations, meanings, and transformations of the arrowhead in the same-named story.


Write a poem based on the perspective of ONE of the central characters of Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro’s stories: Wanwe, Ndizi, or Tshanwe. Emphasize in the poem the way the character you choose reflects on slavery and how they keep a sense of dignity while facing oppression.

La Traversée and Midwives- Jessica Marie Johnson and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro

Entry question

What’s one thing from the readings you would like to discuss in class today?

“La traversée”

In the second half of her chapter,  Johnson proposes some key ideas about the Atlantic crossing:

.Slave Ships were the connecting tissue of the Atlantic world. They were part war machines, mobile prisons, and factories with complex racial-sexual landscapes. Ships were also cultural and political territories. (101)

.The captains describe African people as “naigres,” “neigresses” and “mulatresse” choosing not to differentiate race, or perceived racial mixture, ethnicity, or age or between the free and the enslaved. (101)

.Political tensions between African and European empires charted these women’s paths across the Atlantic. Slaving acts engaged in by ships captains, Company officials, and slaveowners, from instructions issued by investors to punishment delivered by captains and crew, transformed them from the women and girls they knew themselves to be in their home communities into Atlantic currency (they were fragments of the piece de Inde). (104)

.In the 1720s Les Cayes in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) became the center of commerce. It served as a way station for ships traveling between West Africa and Louisiana; it was a safe port of call where captains drew on Company resources to house, treat, and feed sick slaves and crew. On average, a slave or crew member died for nearly every day of travel. (101-2)

.Les Cayes outpost offered traders an opportunity to build illicit commercial networks with the British in Jamaica and with the Spanish in Cuba. Contraband sugar, slaves, cattle, subsistence products, and ideas circulated between the three colonies openly. (102)

.At African slaving ports slavery existed as one captive experience among others. Officials could not systematize difference on the basis of African ancestry and slave descent. In the Americas, this was not the case. Africans overwhelmingly arrived to live and die as slaves. (105)


In “Midwives” Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro enters fully into the discussion of daily individual and collective rebellions.

“Midwives” examines the act of poisoning colonizers and enslavers, one of the most common acts of African rebellion in the Americas (89).  We see also literal and metaphysical escapes. Through Ndizi and the “army of midwives,” (85-6)  the reader gets to know the belief that death will bring metaphysical freedom (77-8). Just like in “Wanwe,” Arroyo Pizarro also pays attention to the personality, ideas, emotions, and skills of the enslaved women. For instance, via the relationship between Ndizi and the priest, Petro, we see the process of linguistic creolization in Puerto Rico and the Antilles.

Oral presentation on the essay “La Traversée” or the story “Midwives.”

Oseni, Kayode M

Tejada, Rosa J

Ally, Fazila

Group Discussion

.How language acquisition represents a tool for survival,  organizing, and rebellion in “Midwives”?

Asynchronous Assignment on La traversée (Pages 77-97) by Jessica Marie Johnson

Historian Jessica Marie Johnson in “La Traversée,” the third chapter of her book Wicked Flesh, looks at the ways the Atlantic crossing or middle passage “tore at gender, intimacy, and kinship as they existed on the African continent.” By analyzing primary trade documents, she presents how agents of trade companies, investors, and slaveowners “purchased fantasies of mastery that redefined African ethnicity, gender, and age in ways that reduced people to flesh.” Johnson argues that slave traders assumed that African women’s and girls’ bodies “existed to be used, exploited, and ultimately sold for profit.” This chapter also looks at resistance in the ships and how this “laid the foundations for what would become practices of freedom in the New World.” (97)

Asynchronous Assignment

In the comment section down below  write a response (225-words minimum) to ONE of these prompts (due on 2/23 before class):


Johnson argues that slave trading was a business that reduced humans with complicated genders to the base biological metrics of plantation production. Expanding on this idea, discuss the process of turning African captives into  “piéces d’Inde” and how this experience of commodification (objectification) offered an ungendered reading of human bodies. (Pages 80-82)


How African women and girls, in particular, were targeted for gendered violence? How Africans acted together in organized resistance against slave traffic, ship captains, and company officials in Senegambia? (Pages 82-85)


Describe the role of gender in the fight against captivity and torture aboard slave ships. (Pages 79, 92-95)

*Remember that as long as you are also discussing and analyzing ideas from the readings you can always react or build upon one of your classmates’ responses.*

Wanwe- Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro

Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro is a Puerto Rican writer. She published books that promote the discussion of Afro-identity and sexual diversity. She is the Director of the Department of Afro-Puerto Rican Studies, a performative project of Creative Writing based in San Juan. She is also the founder and chair of Ancestral Black Women, in response to the call by UNESCO to celebrate the International Decade for People of African Descent. She was invited by the UN to speak about women, slavery, and creativity in 2015 as part of the Remembering Slavery Program.

Her short story collection Las negras won the 2013 National Short Story Prize from the PEN Club of Puerto Rico and explores the limits of the development of female characters who challenge hierarchies of colonial power.

The stories from Negras, “Wanwe” “Midwives” and “Arrowhead” pay attention to the violence of the Atlantic slave trade from the capture in Africa, to the forced labor in Puerto Rico and the colonial punishments against rebellious women. Although slavery is the backdrop of the collection, Arroyo Pizarro emphasizes the inner world, brilliant skills, and humanity of her enslaved protagonists.

Wanwe- Y. Arroyo Pizarro

In “Wanwe” Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro focuses on African traditions and affiliations, emotional landscapes, and inter-tribal feelings of solidarity and compassion under the context of European abductions in West Africa.

Oral/Slide presentation on “Wanwe”


Hogans, Margarita

Miro, Christine

Open Discussion

Freewrite for 5 minutes on the chat based on ONE of these prompts

.How Arroyo Pizarro in “Wanwe” (pages 25-61) restores the humanity of the African captives by describing cultural traditions, motherhood, and/or love rituals.

.On the chat discuss the contrasts Arroyo Pizarro creates between the ureoré ceremony (pages 35-37; 40-41; 55) and the enclosed stacked up spaces in the slave ships.

Group Reflections on Wanwe

Asynchronous Assignment on A Terrible Crying (Pages 24-38)

In the comment section down below  write a response (225-words minimum) to ONE of these prompts (due on 2/16 before class):


What were the slave coffles? What treatment enslaved people endured or suffered while in them? (26-32)


Describe the relationships between European men and local African women in coastal fortresses and trading post. What was a common role of the children born out of these relationships? (32-38)


Using the excerpts from historical documents presented by Dadzie write a poem on captivity based on the perspective of either the young village girl encountered en route (page 28) or Abu-Bakr al-Siddiq (page 31)

A Terrible Crying (Pages 15-25)- Stella Dadzie

What are the central ideas of this writer, thinker, or artist?

Herstorian, activist, educator, and a founding member of the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD), Stella Dadzie’s book A Kick in the Belly: Women, Slavery, and Resistance delves into the nature, legacy, and impacts of the African enslavement. She examines in particular how women disrupted the trade and forced labor economies in Africa and the Caribbean.  In the first chapter, Dadzie tackles the issue of African collaboration in the slave trade and how political and military leaders fought against European colonialism and the violent capture of Africans.


Analyze one specific section by your chosen author that best communicates what you identified in the question above.

Dadzie presents us with examples of African  women who opposed the trade such as:

Queer queen/king Ana Nzinga (1581-1663) performed alliances and learned Portuguese to help escapees and use her military prowess to resist European intrusion. (19)

Amina (d. 1610), a warrior Hausa queen of Zazzau led an army of over 20,000 and surrounded her city with defensive walls (20).

Beatriz Kimpa Vita (1684-1706) insisted that Jesus was African and call for Congolese Unity as a direct challenge to the design of European slavers and missionaries. (20)

Taggeba (1701) employed her [political] influence against European infiltration in the continent. (19)

Yaa Asantewaa (b. 1840) lead an army of 5,000 in the Ashanti war of resistance against the British. (21)

These cases let us know how African women subverted political, gender, and religious norms and impositions to challenge colonization and resist the trade of humans. Dadzie also suggests how women were military leaders and strategists.

What analogies can you establish between the primary source, your own experiences, and/or other sources you have read, listened to, or seen?

In Discourse on Colonialism Césaire argues that European and African tyrants get on very well with each other.  They “established between them, to the detriment of the people, a circuit of mutual services and complicity.” (43)

Dadzie on her part says that “copious supplies of rum and gin” along with guns became  “one of the most lucrative exports to Africa.” Europeans “stir up local rivalries” fomenting unrest  “to increase demands for guns and the resulting supply of captives.” This arms trade has killed “millions of Africans and has continued unchecked into the twenty-first century.” (23)

Pose a critical question to the group.

“Between colonizer and colonized there is room only for forced labor, intimidation, pressure, the police, taxation, theft, rape, compulsory crops, contempt, mistrust, arrogance, self-complacency, swinishness, brainless elites, degraded masses.” (42)

-Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism

“The legacies of those centuries of genocide and abuse are still with us, in relative levels of poverty and education, infant mortality and prison occupancy rates, wars, human suffering and a plethora of other glaring North-South inequalities, both social and economic, that cry out for reparation.” (15)

-Stella Dadzie, “A Terrible Cry”

How the above quotes relate to each other? What are Césaire and Dadzie’s central arguments?

Conclusion (Page 25)