Black Victorians

Good ignorance-abatement moment today. Funny what you never think about until someone points it out.

Of course ordinary Americans are all familiar with portrayals of enslaved, oppressed, or otherwise struggling black people of the 1800s. But we also probably can readily envision the appearance of a few specific black abolitionists and intellectuals of the time — most famously Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass. I’ve had a pretty good basic US history education, I thought, so it’s not like I’ve “never” seen an image of Victorian-era middle-class folks of African descent… but really, mostly, I actually haven’t.

But check out these deeply compelling images of beautiful, proud, ordinary-extraordinary, woefully under-represented black Victorians collected in this blog by a woman who is not-coincidentally restoring her Queen Anne brownstone house in Troy, NY (near Albany).

I realized my fascination with this page was rooted in cognitive dissonance in my mind between these black faces and these gorgeous costumes, postures and settings. That’s the legacy of white supremacy and its poison, and these images are an antivenin.

I have a long way to go, but I’m grateful for a good dose of cure whenever I can get it.


About amywinns

Semi-snarky, semi-sincere, occasionally ranting, always paying attention. Feminist who can work a skirt and crack a joke. Grammar nerd who is also fun at parties. Mid-career writer/editor with 15 years’ experience in newspapers & magazines who now helps developers at a major media corporation communicate with the suits who write the checks. Pro-women, pro-family, pro-choice, pro-workingclass, pro-entrepreneur, pro-farmer. Like every other bourgeois Brooklynite, I choose local/organic/raw food — mostly vegetables — whenever possible/reasonable/affordable but I’m not a smug asshole about it. Hometown: Atlanta. Weird hobby: lindy hop. No pets, no kids, no thanks.
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