Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 118 / Number 4
Greenock's Case: A Note on Gender, Race, Class, Politics, and Punishment in Early Virginia
- Lenaye Howard, pp. 350–65
Historians have long explored the nature of interracial sexual relationships in the early South. The work of James Hugo Johnston, Peter Bardaglio, Diane Sommerville, and Sharon Block established the reality of black-on-white rape before the Civil War, explored the level of social concern caused by this reality, and discussed the position of women in prosecuting such offenses. Greenock was an enslaved African American convicted of raping a white woman and later defended by wealthy and prominent slaveowners. Greenock's is a case of interracial rape complicated by concerns of class, politics, and appropriate punishment in addition to issues of race and gender. It reflects the tension between distrust of low-class female testimony and the responsibility of white men to protect female virtue. It echoes rising sentiments for penal reform that applied not only to the white but also to the black offender. The article includes transcriptions of key documents related to the case.