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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • ST. NICHOLAS RESTAURANT, c. 1873

Contrabands: 1862

Contrabands: 1862

May 14, 1862. Cumberland Landing, Virginia. "Group of contrabands [runaway slaves] at Foller's house." Photographs from the main Eastern theater of war: The Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862. Wet-plate glass negative, half of stereograph pair. View full size. Photograph by James F. Gibson (b. 1828).

 

Contrabands

This picture has been used in textbooks under different headings. It is finally being properly identified.

Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation freed nary a soul as it only applied to areas not under Union control. Additionally, it specifically excluded portions of occupied Southern states that the Union did control. It was purely a War measure designed to prevent England and France from recognizing the Confederacy, and spark a slave revolt elsewhere. In the former Lincoln was successful, but not in the latter.

Such Nobility

The nobility in these faces... no words to describe.

The true heroes

we always hear about how the slaves were docile, and many were loath to leave their homes and captivity. These people show the truth, they wanted freedom and knew they were threatened with death and pain to keep it. These unschooled former slaves show wisdom beyond their years. And maybe a little hope as well.

Non persona, sed res

(Latin for "not a human being but an object.")

On the subject but only for the "strong-hearted":

http://www.withoutsanctuary.org/main.html

Oldest photo

on Shorpy so far? i asked myself a few days ago, no one protested, but no, see Washington Monument: 1860

Those casual men

custer had a name...
does anyone know this man's name?

i would not have survived, unless by magic.

Amazing.

What saddens me most about this photo is that even 100 years after it was taken, the children and grandchildren of these fine people would still not have full, equal rights in the United States.

A very fitting photo for the eve of April 4th.

History with Faces

It's amazing to think that slavery had been in the Colonies/United States for over 200 years by the time this photo had been taken. Slavery was just a long-accepted part of life and even cited in the Constitution.

That's just the way it was.

Contrabands

I can certainly see three generations as well; I can see the changes in some of their features going down the generational line--even if they are not all blood-related. What a sad time in our history; I often have said that I don't think I would have survived slavery, but given our pride, strength, determination and wherewithal, I do believe now that I would have survived. I'd like to know who this family is, where the descendants are, etc. Thank you so much for printing this beautiful but poignantly sad piece of our American history.

Contrabands

The term "contraband" when associated with escaped slaves put them in a sort of no man's land as far as status, not truly slave but as of the time of the photo - eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation - not truly free either. Indeed the first commander to encounter slaves escaping to his lines - Benjamin Butler at Fort Monroe - "kept them as slaves" according to Wikipedia. His justification in not returning them was that they were contraband of war - property that might be used to materially aid the Confederacy in its war effort, with the emphasis on the property aspect.

Make that all three generations...

Since Lincoln didn't issue the Emancipation Proclimation until September 1862.

Generations

The faces suggest there are three generations here. It's likely that at least two generations, and perhaps three, were born into bondage. Very sobering image that exemplifies the words of the old spiritual: "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen."

Turbulence

Not too many unfurrowed brows in that group. What a scary time. I wonder how their lives turned out?

Wow

This is one of the most fascinating pictures yet - and that's saying something.

It's hard to believe that we Americans ever believed that we could own people. When you can see the faces of the people we enslaved, you have to wonder how anyone thought it was acceptable. Just normal, real people like anyone else, but denied all rights.

Amazing. Thanks for putting a face on history, yet again.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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