This Photo of a 7-Year-Old Girl Transformed the Abolition Movement

Maurice Berger in the New York Times:

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 1855, is actually historic. It shows not a white child but a black girl — Mary Mildred Williams — who was born into slavery. It was an image so compelling to white Americans at the time that it helped transform the abolition movement. Housed in relative obscurity at the Massachusetts Historical Society, the daguerreotype was recently rediscovered by the photographer and scholar Jessie Morgan-Owens while researching her dissertation.

More here.