Graphic photo tells story of slavery “to the eye.”

The photo that told the story of slavery “to the eye”

The photo that told the story of slavery “to the eye”

I’ve shown this photo to thousands of people … in homes and churches and meeting rooms.  But I didn’t know the story behind the photo until I read it today.  The piece was written by Frank H. Goodyear, III, assistant curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery.  The man in the photo was identified as Gordon … only as Gordon … with no last name.  Excerpts:

[Photography] also played an influential role in broadening the national debate about slavery. As this famous photograph suggests, photography was capable of communicating powerful ideas about the so-called “peculiar institution”—ideas that ultimately undermined the prevailing notion that slavery was a benign tradition.  (emphasis added)


Recognized as a searing indictment of slavery, Gordon’s portrait was presented as the latest evidence in the abolitionist campaign. An unidentified writer for the New York Independent wrote: “This Card Photograph should be multiplied by 100,000, and scattered over the States. It tells the story in a way that even Mrs. [Harriet Beecher] Stowe [author of the 1852 book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin] can not approach, because it tells the story to the eye.”  (emphasis added)

Link to entire story here.


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