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Girl in Black and White

Nonfiction: Biography, History
Unabridged   9 hour(s)
Publication date: 04/09/2019

Girl in Black and White

The Story of Mary Mildred Williams and the Abolition Movement

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781684418817
Digital Download ISBN:9781684418824


The riveting, little-known story of Mary Mildred Williams—a slave girl who looked "white"—whose photograph transformed the abolitionist movement.

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Product Description

When a decades-long court battle resulted in her family's freedom in 1855, seven-year-old Mary Mildred Williams unexpectedly became the face of American slavery. Famous abolitionists Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Albion Andrew would help Mary and her family in freedom, but Senator Charles Sumner saw a monumental political opportunity. Due to generations of sexual violence, Mary’s skin was so light that she "passed" as white, and this fact would make her the key to his white audience's sympathy. During his sold-out abolitionist lecture series, Sumner paraded Mary in front of rapt audiences as evidence that slavery was not bounded by race.

Drawing upon long-overlooked primary sources, Jessie Morgan-Owens investigates tangled generations of sexual enslavement and the fraught politics that led Mary to Sumner. She follows Mary's story through the lives of her determined mother and grandmother to her own adulthood, parallel to the story of the antislavery movement and the eventual signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Girl in Black and White restores Mary to her rightful place in history and uncovers a dramatic narrative of travels along the Underground Railroad, relationships tested by oppression, and the struggles of life after emancipation.


“Captivating... A powerful salute to the memory of Mary Williams, antebellum America's demure symbol of human freedom. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal Starred Review

“Morgan-Owens has located a fascinating story and tells it with verve, adding a new dimension to the much-studied struggle against slavery in America.” —Publishers Weekly

“A valuable contribution to abolitionist history.” —Kirkus Reviews

Author Bio

Jessie Morgan-Owens is the dean of studies at Bard Early College in New Orleans, Louisiana. A photographer with the team Morgan & Owens, she received her doctorate from New York University and lives in New Orleans with her family.