New York: 1863-1864. Unbound. This group consists of twelve photographs of the four white children included in a group of eight emancipated slaves that were taken North in November and December of 1863 on a publicity tour to shore up flagging support for the Civil War. The inclusion of white slave children was considered to be essential as, except for in abolitionist circles, the majority of white Northerners had little empathy for enslaved blacks. The trip—partially sponsored by the National Freedman’s Relief Association and the American Missionary Association—was coordinated by Colonel George Henry, the Superintendent of the Union Army’s Bureau of Negro Labor, and his Assistant Superintendent for Freedmen, Philip Bacon. The tour was a partial success, but it did not sway everyone; Henry was attacked when he visited Bridgetown, Connecticut.
While in New York City, the entourage visited two important photographers, M. H. Kimball and Charles Paxon, who produced souvenir cartes de visite, which on the reverse contain the text:
“The nett proceeds from thes ale of these Photographs will be devoted exclusively to the education of colored people in the Department of the Gulf, now under the command of Maj. Gen. Banks.”
The cards in this group show the four white children individually and in groups of three. A letter advertisement in the January 30, 1864 edition of Harper’s Weekly identifies the children as follows:
“Rebecca Huger is eleven years old, and was a slave in her father’s house, the special attendant of a girl a little older than herself. To all appearance she is perfectly white. Her complexion, hair, and features show not the slightest trace of negro blood. In the few months during which she has been at school she has learned to read well, and writes as neatly as most children of her age. Her mother and grandmother live in New Orleans, where they support themselves comfortably by their own labor. The grandmother, an intelligent mulatto, told Mr. Bacon that she had ‘raised’ a large family of children, but these are all that are left to her.”
“Rosina Downs is not quite seven years old. She is a fair child, with blonde complexion and silky hair. Her father is in the rebel army. She has one sister as white as herself, and three brothers who are darker. Her mother, a bright mulatto, lives in New Orleans in a poor hut, and has hard work to support her family.”
“Charles Taylor is eight years old. His complexion is very fair, his hair light and silky. Three out of five boys in any school in New York are darker than he. Yet this white boy, with his mother, as he declares, has been twice sold as a slave. First by his father and ‘owner,’ Alexander Wethers, of Lewis County, Virginia, to a slave-trader named Harrison, who sold them to Mr. Thornhill of New Orleans. This man fled at the approach of our army, and his slaves were liberated by General Butler. The boy is decidedly intelligent, and though he has been at school less than a year he reads and writes very well. His mother is a mulatto; she had one daughter sold into Texas before she herself left Virginia, and one son who, she supposes, is with his father in Virginia. These three children, to all appearance of unmixed white race, came to Philadelphia last December, and were taken by their protector, Mr. Bacon, to the St. Lawrence Hotel on Chestnut Street. Within a few hours, Mr. Bacon informed me, he was notified by the landlord that they must therefore be colored persons, and he kept a hotel for white people. From this hospitable establishment the children were taken to the "Continental," where they were received without hesitation. . .”
“Augusta Boujey is nine years old. Her mother, who is almost white, was owned by her half-brother, named Solamon, who still retains two of her children. . ..” One of the cards bears a blue 2-cent U.S. Internal Revenue Proprietary stamp (Scott #R13) on the reverse.
Overall, the cards are in nice shape. One has clipped lower corners, several have minor soiling, one has a hard-to-see light crease, and one has a scrapbook-mounting-scuff on the reverse. Very good. Item #009627
Cards may be purchased separately; please contact us for individual card prices as they vary.