Abstract:
This article analyzes published sources, archival records, and prints and paintings to show that, over the course of the eighteenth century, white colonists in Saint-Domingue attempted unsuccessfully to dehumanize enslaved persons by exploiting their breasts as sources of productive and reproductive labor and by disfiguring them by means of brands. Enslaved women and men resisted that control. Despite being branded, enslaved persons ran away. Knowing the tremendous cultural and social value accorded to their breasts, enslaved women, whether as mothers or othermothers, pursued a strategy of subversive breastfeeding. By so doing, they nurtured children and sustained survival, including fugitive networks. Ultimately, these Black mothers impacted how freedom was defined and imagined both during and long after the Haitian Revolution. These findings contribute to histories of the breast, the Haitian Revolution, intimate labor, and the body. They make visible women and their decisions in challenging enslavement.