Effects of Punishment by Burning, Richmond, Virginia, 1866

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This record was last updated on 10 Feb 2017

Image Reference

Harper's Weekly (July 28, 1866), p.477.

Caption, "Marks of punishment inflicted upon a colored servant in Richmond, VA"; shows the back of woman with burn marks. The victim was thirteen years old when, for reasons unexplained in the article, she annoyed or upset her mistress. She was locked in a room by herself for over a week, during which time the mistress repeatedly burned her back. The mistress was arrested, but released on $ 5,000 bail. The original photograph is located in the Houghton Library at Harvard University (Wendell Phillips Papers, [bMSAm1953(942)]. In a letter from Richmond, dated July 6, 1866, which enclosed this photo, John Oliver wrote Wendell Philllips that although the photograph "is a very poor one . . . from it you will be able to see quite well the barbarism of Slavry [sic] as it now exist[s] in King William Co, Virginia in 1866. This girl with a twin Sister and their morthe [sic] lucy [sic] Richardson were Slaves to a Mr Henry Abrams, his wife, one of the most cruel tyrent [sic] read of in any age put out the left eye of the mother, and her constent [sic[ habit has been to take the Childr[e]n and burn their backs in the man[n]er which this picture explains, this chil[d] is now 16 years old and when brought to me, at the freedmen's Court was too weak to walk with me 4 square to gete [sic[ something to eate[sic]." We are grateful to Margaret Abruzzo for bringing this letter to our attention and to Zachary Matus for his assistance with the transcription.