Video: Historian Michael Eula speaks on slave women and poor white women in Genesee County in 19th Century
Most history books neglect to mention the marginalized poor of the 19th Century and, perhaps, none were more marginalized than slave women and poor white women.
Genesee County in its early history was little different than the rest of the country in this respect.
"Until well into the 1950s, a typical historical treatment of our country usually excluded about half of the population, which is, of course, female," Eula said during a talk on Thursday morning at the Holland Land Office Museum. "The is an invisibility of women in many historical works."
Eula is uncovering some of that history in a book he's writing, The National is Local: Genesee County, New York, 1802 to Present.
"One example of this effort is the portrayal of the most invisible of women, at least for me, and that would include African-American slave women and poor white women," Eula said. "Both share common traits -- they have little power politically, economically. They lacked basic economic resources in both cases."
At the start of his talk, Eula noted that people often forget the history of slavery in New York prior to the Civil War.
"Contrary to popular belief, the dichotomy between a free North and a slave South is one that is not as pronounced as is usually depicted in a standard history textbook," Eula said. "The end of slavery in the northern states is far more complex than is typically assumed."
The emancipation of slaves in New York began early in the 19th Century but would take decades to complete. There were slaves still in New York until shortly before the start of the Civil War.
In his talk, Eula shares what census records tell us about who owned slaves in Genesee County into the 1850s.
He also covers the plight of poor white women, who were often forced into the county's poor house/asylum.