in my search for vintage images of mulatto folks i recently stumbled upon a gem!! Joan P. Gage is a journalist and a collector of photographs. on her blog A Rolling Crone she shares one of her collectibles and the fascinating (and still unfolding) story behind it. i feel all kinds of ways about this piece of our history (and by “our” i do mean mulatto, i do mean american, i do mean human seeing as everything is everything and all.) anyway, i feel sad for the little girl. i feel pride for the little girl. i feel a sense of satisfaction that i can point to this child and to the efforts charles sumner as evidence that, even way back when, a white man and a white-looking black child attempted to change people’s minds (way back)when it would have been much easier (not to mention safer!) to relish in the societal refuge that their phenotype offered. i am not implying that the attempt was perfect, nor that there is nothing offensive or off-color about the sentiment behind the message. but, if you consider the general consensus of the times on this matter, i think it safe to view sumner’s cause as a benevolent one. i wonder how little mary felt. i wonder if she understood. i wonder what her parents looked like. and her siblings. i assume there’s a reason that they were not photographed or ‘exhibited’ together. and i wonder how they felt about that, about all of it. and what became of all of them…
From “Raising Freedom’s Child—Black Children and Visions of the Future after Slavery,” written by a University of New Orleans professor, Mary Niall Mitchell:
From joanpgage, the blogger (and current owner of the daguerrotype) from which I am re-blogging this piece:
…Prof. Mitchell is currently working on a book about Mary Botts that will tell more about this former slave’s life, including the drama of how Sumner purchased her and spirited her out of Virginia, how he introduced her to the media and society as a living advocate for the abolitionist cause, and how her family settled in the free black community in Boston.