"Children of the plantation" is a euphemism used that refers to ancestry tracing back to the time of slavery in the United States in which the offspring was born to black African female slaves (either still in the state of slavery or freed) in the context of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and European men, usually the slave's owner, one of the owner's relatives, or the plantation overseer. These children were often considered to be the property of the slave owner and were often subjected to the same treatment as other slaves on the plantation. Many of these children were born into slavery and had no legal rights, as they were not recognized as the legitimate children of their fathers. This practice was a form of sexual abuse and exploitation, as the European men who fathered these children often used their power and authority to dominantly force themselves upon the black women who were under their control. The trauma and suffering that these children and their mothers experienced as a result of this practice continue to have a lasting impact on the African American community.
Plantation owners raping female slaves was a common occurrence. These children were born into slavery, through a legal doctrine known as partus sequitur ventrem. They were classified as mulattoes, a former term for a multiracial person. The one drop rule meant that they could never be part of white society. Some of the fathers treated these children well, sometimes providing educational or career opportunities, or manumitting (freeing) them. Examples are Archibald and Francis Grimké, and Thomas Jefferson's children by Sally Hemings. Others treated their multiracial children as property; Alexander Scott Withers, for instance, sold two of his children to slave traders, where they were sold again.
Alex Haley's Queen: The Story of an American Family (1993) is a historical novel, later a movie, that brought knowledge of the "children of the plantation" to public attention. Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family (1998), written by a White descendant of slave owners, describes this complex legacy. Toni Morrison wrote that this sexual usage of slaves was known as droit du seigneur, the "right of the lord", a term originating in the feudalism of medieval Europe.