Synopses & Reviews
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 a face from her past. It is the face of a German girl, Sally Miller, who disappeared twenty-five years earlier. But the young woman is property, the slave of a nearby cabaret owner. She has no memory of a "white" past. Yet her resemblance to her mother is striking, and she bears two telltale birthmarks.
In brilliant novelistic detail, award-winning historian John Bailey reconstructs the exotic sights, sounds, and smells of mid-nineteenth-century New Orleans, as well as the incredible twists and turns of Sally Miller's celebrated and sensational case. 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, part African, and a slave for life?
A tour de force of investigative history that reads like a suspense novel, The Lost German Slave Girl is a fascinating exploration of slavery and its laws, a brilliant reconstruction of mid-nineteenth-century New Orleans, and a riveting courtroom drama. It is also an unforgettable 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
"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
"[A] deft and captivating plot with astonishing detail culled from historical and archival records. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"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
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