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The Scourged Back

Date before July 1863
Dimensions Mount: 3 15/16 x 2 3/8 in. (10 x 6 cm)
Print medium Photo-Albumen silver-Carte-de-visite

Your Mirror: Portraits from the ICP Collection
Section: War
The American Civil War was the first conflict in which photography played a major role. Widely circulated by Northern abolitionists to demonstrate the brutality of slavery, this image shows the severe scars left by whipping on the back of Gordon, a former slave who escaped from a Mississippi plantation and joined the Union Army in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A woodcut derived from this image was reproduced in the July 4, 1863, edition of Harper’s Weekly, the most widely read American periodical of the day, along with an account of Gordon’s escape. Gordon’s portrait is the most famous image of an enslaved
person made during the Civil War era. The photograph is ascribed to McPherson & Oliver
in Baton Rouge, but McAllister & Brother of Philadelphia, Chandler Seaver Jr. of Boston, and an unknown British publisher also distributed pirated versions of the image. Its wide circulation rallied support for both abolitionism and the Union.

Credit line

Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee, 2003
Entered into the Daniel Cowin Collection

Feedback Accession No. 183.2003