On February 19, , Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts senator, wrote his supporters about an enslaved 7-year-old girl whose freedom he had helped to secure. She would be joining him onstage at an abolitionist lecture that spring. She is neatly outfitted in a plaid dress, with a solemn expression on her face, and looks for all the world like a white girl from a well-to-do family. Newspapers from Maine to Washington, D. The name referred to the title character of Ida May: A Story of Things Actual and Possible , a thrilling novel, published just three months earlier, about a white girl who was kidnapped on her fifth birthday, beaten unconscious and sold across state lines into slavery. The author, Mary Hayden Green Pike, was an abolitionist, and her tale was calculated to arouse white Northerners to oppose slavery and to resist the Fugitive Slave Act, the five-year-old federal law demanding that suspected slaves be returned to their masters. Now the true story of Mary Mildred Williams can be told in detail for the first time. Their skin color was evidence of a then-common act: nonconsensual sex between an enslaved woman and a white member of the master class. Thomas Nelson.
One was white, one black. One was from England, one from Africa. One, almost certainly, owned the other. The black family included the first identified African child born on the mainland of English America — the first African American.
Site Information Navigation
The daguerreotype shows a 7-year old girl. Her face is pale, her expression somber. Her elegant plaid dress, trimmed in lace, and the notebook on the cloth-covered table behind her, suggest that she comes from a prosperous family. Though modest, the photograph taken in Boston in , is actually historic. It shows not a white child but a black girl — Mary Mildred Williams — who was born into slavery.
The institution of slavery in North America existed from the earliest years of the colonial history of the United States until when the Thirteenth Amendment permanently abolished slavery throughout the entire United States. It was also abolished among the sovereign Indian tribes in Indian Territory by new peace treaties which the US required after the war. For most of the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth centuries, male slaves outnumbered female slaves, making the two groups' experiences in the colonies distinct.