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The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of the Slave Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom
"In the 19th century, the story of Sally Miller was seen as the shocking tale of a white woman trapped in slavery and her desperate struggles to win freedom. More than a century later, historian John Bailey reexamines the evidence and reveals a quite different, even more compelling, tale." Gregory M. Lamb, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor)
Synopses & Reviews
On a spring morning in the Spanish Quarter of New Orleans, 1843., on a street lined with flophouses and gambling dens, Madame Carl recognizes a face from her past. It is the face of a German girl who disappeared twenty-five years earlier, the daughter of her closest friend. But the young woman is the property of a Frenchman who owns a nearby cabaret. She is a slave, with no memory of a "white" past. And yet her resemblance to her mother is striking, and she bears two telltale birthmarks. What happened? Had a defenseless European orphan been callously and illegally enslaved, or was she an imposter?
So began one of the most celebrated and sensational crusades of 19th century America — the battle to free the Los German Slave Girl. John Bailey, author of the multi-award winning The White Divers of Broome, has brought to life an incredible true story. The Lost German Slave Girl is a tour de force, a work of narrative non-fiction that is a fascinating exploration of slavery and its laws, a brilliant reconstruction of mid-19th century New Orleans, and a riveting courtroom drama. It is also a compelling portrait of a young woman in pursuit of freedom.
"Who was Sally Miller: was she Salomé Müller, a long-lost German immigrant girl enslaved by a Southern planter? Or was she really a light-skinned black woman, shrewd enough to exploit her only opportunity for freedom? Bailey (The White Diver of Broome) keeps us guessing until the end in this page-turning true courtroom drama of 19th-century New Orleans. Bailey opens the story in 1843, when a friend of the Schubers — a local family of German immigrants — discovered Miller outside her owner Louis Belmonti's house. Struck by her remarkable resemblance to their late cousin Dorothea Müller, and unusual birthmarks exactly like he daughter Salomé's, the Schubers claimed Sally as kin and set about trying to prove her identity as Salom and obtain her freedom. Bailey brings to life the fierce legal proceedings with vivid strokes. The case was controversial because it wasn't Belmonti but her previous owner, the perfect Southern gentleman John Fitz Miller, who faced disgrace if proved to have forced a white German girl into slavery. Bailey elucidates the bewildering array of possible identities turned up for Sally by numerous witnesses as well as the complexities of 19th-century Louisiana slave law and the status of black women. Sally herself remains an enigma at the center of this highly engrossing tale. Agent, Catherine Drayton of Arthur Pine Associates. 50,000 first printing. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An eye-opener to the racism that's so deeply embedded in the fabric of American society." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] deft and captivating plot with astonishing detail culled from historical and archival records. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Bailey plays historical detective as he re-creates one of the most sensational trial cases of the nineteenth century....This fast-paced legal reconstruction reads like a work of fiction." Booklist
Book News Annotation:
An investigative history that reads like a novel, this story recounts a courtroom drama involving a slave owner and his slave, who may or may not have been the daughter of a German immigrant. Bailey, a lawyer and author, reconstructs mid-19th-century New Orleans and the laws and customs surrounding slavery, immigration and racial mixing. After following the case to its finale in the Supreme Court, Bailey reaches his own surprising conclusion about the truth at the center of the conflict.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In brilliant novelistic detail, an award-winning historian John Bailey presents the story of a slave named Sally Miller, who in 1843 was believed by members of the New Orleans' German community to have been illegally enslaved. Bailey uses Miller's dramatic trial to describe the fascinating laws and customs surrounding slavery, immigration, and racial mixing.
It is a spring morning in New Orleans, 1843. In the Spanish Quarter, on a street lined with flophouses and gambling dens, Madame Carl recognizes the face of a German girl who disappeared twenty-five years earlier. But the olive-skinned woman is a slave, with no memory of a white past. And yet her resemblance to her mother is striking, and she bears two telltale birthmarks. Had a defenseless European orphan been illegally enslaved, or was she an imposter? So begins one of the most celebrated and sensational trials of nineteenth-century America. In brilliant novelistic detail, award-winning historian John Bailey uses Miller's dramatic trial to describe the fascinating laws and customs surrounding slavery, immigration, and racial mixing. Did Miller, as her relatives sought to prove, arrive from Germany under perilous circumstances as an indentured servant or was she, as her master claimed, a slave for life? The trial pits a humble community of German immigrants against a hardened capitalist and one of the most flamboyant lawyers of his time. Bailey follows the case's incredible twists and turns all the way to the Supreme Court and comes to a shocking conclusion in this investigative history that reads like a suspense novel.
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