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The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans Paperback – November 29, 2005
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At the time, these immigrants were bound to service for varying lengths of time and were called "Redemptioners." Since they were of the white race, they had the hope of being free once their term of service was completed. However, it was believed by Salome's family and lawyers that she had unlawfully been sold as a slave without any hope of ever being free.
Most of the book is a review of the many twists and turns and ups and downs of the legal battle that ensues. Since this is a true story, and not a work of fiction, there is no way of hiding the ugliness of slavery, and the insidious way the law ensures that people of color remain forever in bondage.
Throughout the book I was rooting for Sally, no matter who she was, because ai so wanted her to be victorious against a system that was skewed in favor of slave owners. Bailey does a good job of keeping us in suspense till the very end. The only reason Indid not give this book 5 stars was because of the Kindle format. It was at times hard to separate the many footnotes from the narrative. This was distracting. Overall, however, this was an interesting and engaging read.
I must say I found the book engaging and easy to understand, and the frustrations of all the parties at the speed and consequences of seeking redress of grievances in court were portrayed in a believable manner. Not until the last page of the book does the Author tell you what conclusion he came to about the validity of the case. While I disagree with his opinion the rest of the book lays out the case clearly enough that I understand why he came to that conclusion even though I myself reached a different one..
Salome and her family came to America in 1818 as indentured servants or redemptioners. She was estimated to be three years old at the time. Her mother died during the passage, her father and brother died after arrival and her sister's whereabouts were unknown. She was never released from servitude. Members of her extended family claim to recognize her as an adult and provide considerable evidence that Sally is, in fact, Salome. The court case disparages a prominent citizen of New Orleans who had owned the girl, and he begins a vendetta to prove them fools and keep Sally a slave.
There is great detail contained in Bailey's rendition of Sally's story. Court documents were plentiful to research. The case was also spectacularly covered in the newspapers and talk amongst the citizens at every opportunity. Well-known gentlemen testified. The German community in the city rallied to her cause and contributed money to fight for her.
Bailey's writing is superb and well-paced. The city of New Orleans, during this time frame, also comes to life in this book, and is, in every way, portrayed accurately based on my experience with other history I've read. You feel you are there.
So, is Sally the German Salome?
Bailey’s book approaches an often forgotten part of our history. That there were occasionally white slaves. His endeavor to show the history of this unfortunate white German immigrant child’s trials, and even tribulations of being a white slave of The Peculiar Institution, is surely a success.
Well researched with much documentation.
Readers who enjoy history, particularly history of the south and history of slavery, will find much to enjoy and learn in Bailey’s book .
Top international reviews
Eine Familie aus dem Elsass wandert nach Amerika aus, dem "gelobten Land" der damaligen Zeit. Während der Überfahrt stirbt die Mutter. Den Vater und seine Kinder verschlägt es auf eine Plantage in Louisiana. Auf dem Weg dahin stirbt der Vater und der älteste Sohn, lediglich zwei kleine Mädchen bleiben übrig. Die Spuren der Kinder verlieren sich im Nirgendwo.
Nach Jahrzenten erkennt eine der damaligen Mit-Auswanderer, die mit der Familie auf dem gleichen Auswanderer-Schiff war, eine der Töchter der Familie wieder. Die Tochter ist jetzt die Sklavin eines besser situierten Südstaatlers. In den Südsaaten der damaligen Zeit waren Sklaven per Definition Farbige: Weiße und Indianer waren freizulassen, oder der Beweis ihres Sklavenstatus zu führen. Eine europäische Einwanderin als Sklavin zu halten war ein unglaublicher Skandal, um so mehr, als ihr früherer Besitzer einer der reichsten Männer der damaligen Gesellschaft in New Orleans war.
Damals gab es keine Fingerabdrücke und keine biometrischen Passbilder, es stand Aussage gegen Aussage - allerdings finde ich (im Gegensatz zu John Bailey), dass die Aussage der Patin und anderer Zeugen stichhaltig sind. Ein Rechtsstreit um die Freilassung der Sklavin entspannt sich. In neutralem Stil berichtet der Autor John Bailey anhand dieses Rechtsstreits über die Zustände im damaligen New Orleans, die Lebensumstände der Bevölkerung und der Einwanderer in den Südstaaten Amerikas.
Mit dem Buch ist dem Autor gerade durch seinen nüchternen Stil eine sehr lebhafte Beschreibung der Zustände des damaligen Südens gelungen. Das Schicksal der Einwanderer und die Schwierigkeiten in Amerika Fuß zu fassen, werden genauso beschrieben wie das bekannte leichte Leben der Großgrundbesitzer und Sklavenhalter. Was noch fehlt, ist die Verbindung zwischen der Sklavenwirtschaft damals und den heutigen Zuständen zu ziehen - aber das wäre wohl zuviel verlangt.