Not Allowing 19th Century Slavery To Overshadow Her Individual Story–Victorian Style

The great advantage that comes from volunteering as a Living Historian stems from the compilation of information. I have decided to focus my search for a 19th century Southern Heroine within Georgia (CSA).*  Several wonderful ladies are mentoring me on the subject matter of 19th Century women’s fashion, customs, and social life.  On Saturday, I began to shadow a Living Historian to gain a deeper understanding of the role.

As you may know, slavery existed during the 19th Century in the United States of America. My narrative must address slavery at some level. However, I want my sphere of influence to get to know the 19th Century woman and not allow the term “slavery” to overshadow her individual story.

The first matter of course is to determine social class for my Southern Heroine: slave, free, or black slaveholder in Georgia (CSA). Again, much has been written about slavery. However, overwhelmingly, the 19th Century African American woman’s point of view at the surface of history has been downplayed.

As an example, what do you see when you look at this photograph? I see a 19th Century woman who will not deal with nonsensical behavior. Her strength lies in her stance. Her determination is squarely within her eyes. Her dress demonstrates labor–for she teaches us there is a time to be all about business.  Hattie McDaniel became the first black actor to win an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress due to her outstanding performance of this type of slave role in Gone with the Wind.

Highlighting the good in humanity,
Ann Dewitt

*On January 19, 1961, the state of Georgia seceded from the Union–hence Georgia (CSA)

Photograph: Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries