The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans: John Bailey: 9780802142290: Amazon.com: Books
The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans [John Bailey] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. <div>It is a spring morning in New Orleans, 1843. In the Spanish Quarter, on a street lined with flophouses and...
I read the attached book. It is written by a lawyer, and focuses on the litigation. The Wikipedia article is a mess. I will summarize what I have figured out about the case.
Salome Muller's father was a shoemaker in Alsace, which was part of France, but was part of Germany 1871-1919 and 1940-1944. She was from an area where a German dialect was spoken. The economy of the area was effected by the year without a summer, when crops failed due to summer frosts due to a massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia. Many peasants starved. The Mullers were not destitute, but joined the large numbers emigrating to America.
They first traveled to Amsterdam. They buy tickets to the US, but are put on an old Russian naval vessel. The crew never arrives, and the passengers are taken off the ship. Apparently, someone sold tickets, took the money, but never provided transportation. The Mullers did not have money for more tickets, and stayed in Amsterdam for months with other homeless people mostly from Germany.
Eventually, a captain offers to take them to America in exchange for agreeing to be indentured servants. The Mullers and other Germans in Amsterdam have no choice but to agree. The ship sails for New Orleans, where servants and slaves fetch the highest price. Due to calm winds, the voyage takes much longer than usual, they run out of food etc., and about half of the passengers die, including Salome's mother.
The passengers are sold in New Orleans in 1817. There was a scandal that some of the German and Dutch indentured servants were sold to free blacks. Legislation was passed to prevent that from happening again, that a black person could not be a white person's master.
The Mullers wait aboard ship for a week, because the father and young children were not in demand. As there value was low, they would be sold into longer terms of servitude. Eventually, the father and young children are sold to a sugar planter. Sugar plantations were the worst place a slave could be sold to and had high fatality rates. Most of the slaves there were men from about 15-30, who cut sugar cane with machetes.
It isn't known what kind of work Salome's father was assigned, but he died within a year of arriving on the plantation. Was he cutting cane or used as an overseer, as white servants often were? Did he die of tropical diseases? Was he badly whipped?
It isn't known what happened to Salome's siblings. Did they survive? Were they freed at the end of their indentures?
Salome was 4 when she was sold to the sugar planter. She was supposed to have been freed when she was 14 but wasn't. There were many slaves who were maybe 1/32 African and could pass for white. Plantations were in rural areas where planters had power. Slaves were extremely valuable. Who knows how many other indentured servants were enslaved. Obviously, she was in a difficult position with her parents gone and not remembering much before her father's death. It is possible she was retained partly to be taken advantage of sexually, but we don't know that.
Salome had 2 sons that survived and still lived on the plantation. I couldn't find out if they were white or mixed. It is sort of weird either way if she was involved with the slave owner or a slave or maybe both.
She was then sold to restaurant owner in New Orleans. It didn't matter that she had young children on the plantation. She worked in the restaurant and apparently was involved with the unmarried French owner. She had another son, apparently by her new master.
A woman from her village in Alsace sees Salome in the restaurant and thinks she is Salome's mother, but realizes that the mother died on the voyage. Then she recognizes her as Salome. She tells Salome who she is, and Salome responds that she is a yellow girl and belongs to Mr. ___. Eventually, the woman from the village and German friends of her become convinced of who Salome is, partly from identifying moles.
They ask her owner to free her, but he responds that he paid a lot of money for her. They can't buy her and free her, because it was illegal to free a slave in Louisiana. There were many free blacks in Louisiana, some fairly wealthy, but most were descended from those who were freed or bought their freedom under French or Spanish rule.
Members of the German community in New Orleans donate money to hire a lawyer. He sues Salome's current owner and the one who had enslaved her. The owner who had enslaved her had money to litigate and said he viewed the suit as an insult to his honor. It is also possible he was vindictive. He refused to settle and the case went to trial.
Salome won her freedom in court. The master who had enslaved her appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court and then launched additional appeals. Salome's lawyer attempted unsuccessfully to free her children.
Her son at the restaurant, who was completely white, remained a slave, and was separated from his mother as a result of her freedom. Not much is known of Salome's later life after she was freed at age 30.
In addition to free blacks who were kidnapped, there were probably other white people who were kidnapped into slavery or made slaves at the end of their indentures.