The Graduate Center - City University of New York

"A Typical Negro."

The focus of this illustrated article published in the July 4, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly was an engraving based on a widely-disseminated carte de visite of a former slave named Gordon who had escaped to Union lines from a Mississippi plantation. The photograph, entitled "The Scourged Back," which may have been taken in New Orleans during the previous spring, displayed the grim evidence of repeated whippings that the newly-enlisted U.S. Army private had endured under slavery. The two other illustrations in the Harper's Weekly piece may not have been based on photographs. But, bracketing the central image, they offered readers a narrative of Gordon's experience from victimization to self possession—a story that, as the title "A Typical Negro" indicated, was common to formerly enslaved African Americans who had joined northern forces to actively participate in ending slavery.

Date: July 4, 1863

Publisher: Harper's Weekly

Source: HarpWeek