Portrait of a Seated Black Child with Hands Crossed
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American, about 1857 - 1858
Hand-colored daguerreotype
2 1/16 x 1 9/16 in.

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Made sometime between 1850 and 1855, a full decade before the Emancipation Proclamation made all persons of color free in the United States, this daguerreotype of a young black boy is an important record of the face of America in the middle of the 1800s.

The American poet Walt Whitman said that the daguerreotype created "a new world of images." Democratic, down-to-earth, and brimming with opportunity, both the daguerreotype and America celebrated the status of individuals--their personal liberties and cultural freedoms. A portrait such as this, of a child who was probably never a slave, stands as a significant marker toward the fulfillment of democracy's promise.