Monday, August 5, 2013

The Stories Behind Two Infamous Photos Documenting the Evils of Slavery

Today the New York Times on line--The Opinionator--published another essay of mine about  Civil War photography--this one telling the stories behind two iconic photographs of horribly abused slaves.  These photographs were reproduced and sold by Abolitionists to arouse public opposition to the institution of slavery.  (My previous essay for The Times "Disunion" section was about Elizabeth Keckley, the dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln, who bought freedom from slavery for herself and her son.)  If you would like to read the complete story behind these photographs, here is the link:

Icons of Cruelty

Disunion follows the Civil War as it unfolded.
Two iconic photographs of former slaves documenting the torture inflicted on them by their owners were widely circulated during the Civil War as anti-slavery propaganda, and both appear in the current exhibit “Photography and the American Civil War” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although the images were extensively reproduced and helped to turn public opinion against slavery, the stories of the two men in these shocking photographs are little known today.
International Center of Photography“Gordon, a Runaway Mississippi Slave, or ‘The Scourged Back,’” 1863, attributed to McPherson & Oliver.

Private Collection, Courtesy William L. Schaeffer“Wilson. Branded Slave from New Orleans,” 1863, taken by Charles Praxson.

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