emancipated slaves, white and colored

On January 30, 1864, Harper’s Weekly printed an engraving of a photograph, entitled “Emancipated Slaves, White and Colored,” depicting three adults and five children who had been brought north from Louisiana by Colonel George H. Hanks and set free by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks. The group made a series of public appearances and were photographed as part of a campaign to raise funds for public schools for freed slaves, the first of which was established by Major General Banks in October 1863. The hope was, writes Kathleen Collins in “Portraits of Slave Children,” that “these enigmatic portraits of Caucasian-featured children” would galvanize “Northern benefactors to contribute to the future of a race to which these children found themselves arbitrarily confined” (207). The “white slaves” depicted in the engraving were described by the editor of Harper’s as being “as white, as intelligent, as docile, as most of our own children” (66). “Yet,” he continued, “the ‘chivalry,’ the ‘gentlemen’ of the Slave States, by the awful logic of the system, doom them all to the fate of swine; and, so far as they can, the parents and brothers of these little ones destroy the light of humanity in their souls” (66). In comparing these unfortunate slave children to those of its subscribers, the magazine hoped to stir their emotions against a system so unconscionable that it doomed its own children to a life of unspeakable cruelty.

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