That “Peculiar” Institution

The Peculiar Institution-bed cartoon

This detail of an envelope from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s Civil War Envelope Collection depicts a white master in bed with his slave. Since I have a white father and a black mother, 
the cartoon takes on a whole different meaning for me. One can only imagine how my great-great grandmother Virginia must have felt about this caricature, growing up in the antebellum South with a white father and black mother who lived openly (and dangerously) as husband and wife.

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