|“White” slave girl Rebecca Huger, 1863
Perhaps you had similar thoughts as I did to reading the words “White Slavery Week”: Really, there was such a thing as “white slavery”?
The original descriptions of each photo in this series from the Old Picture of the Day blog would have you believe that ordinary white children were bought, sold and held as slaves. Yet read closely through the captions and you’ll find that these children were actually of mixed race, who could seemingly “pass” for white.
Here’s the description of the slave girl pictured here from the blog’s June 13th post:
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 coumfortshly by their own labor. The grandmother, an intelligent mulatto, told Mr. Bacon that she had “raised” a large fanmily of children, but these are all that are left to her.
This short description speaks volumes to the pain and suffering so visible in little Rebecca’s despondent eyes. Imagine being torn from your mother’s care to then serve as a slave in your own father’s (who is also your master) house?
See the other photos in “White Slavery Week”, each with their own descriptions of the subjects:
A page from the January 30, 1864 issue of Harpers Weekly shows that the photographs were sent to them by someone named C.C. Leigh who was selling them for 25 cents to $1 in hopes to raise funds for a Louisiana school that was set up to educate these emancipated children.
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