But the law erected barriers to Fortune and her daughters marrying any man, Black or White. White men who chose to marry any of the Game/Fortune women would be indentured for seven years. If Fortune or her daughters married an enslaved Black man, they would be indentured for an additional seven years. In face, women whose mothers and grandmothers were Black were the only women who bore no legal penalty for sexual relations with any man, nor did any man who exploited them and fathered children by them suffer any penalty. White men benefited from this legal loophole. The children of Black women provided them with free enslaved labor for life.
While researching, I learned to ask the question, Who benefits from this law? The answer was always the same: White men – planter-class White men. Always. These are our legal foundations.
It was common for mixed-race women, like Fortune and her daughters, to become pregnant while in service to their indenturing families. No fathers were listed, likely because the fathers were in these courtier families and networks. The law required indenture for White men who bore illegitimate children by mixed-race women. But the law and its application are two different things. Planter-class legislators likely imagined enacting the law on poor White men, providing a bonus source of free labor. But when legal infraction implicated a White courtier or planter, the secret was kept and never investigated by the court. In the colonial hierarchy of human belonging, planter-class and courtier-class White men possessed the full image of God – all aw existed to benefit them.
From “Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World–and How to Repair It All” by Lisa Sharon Harper