The white woman who was 16 years a slave in Louisiana

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,536

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.
 
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Nov 2016
1,351
Germany
Good summary. Unfortunately, there are many such stories even in the present.

It is a bit off topic, because it goes beyond North America and the historical topic, but I want to point it out nevertheless (only in this post).

It can be estimated that millions of missing people are currently imprisoned and abused in slave-like circumstances, most of them, of course, women and children.


An estimated 8 million children are said to go missing each year, worldwide. Around 800,000 are from the United States, 40,000 each year in Brazil, 50,500 in Canada, 39,000 in France, 100,000 in Germany, 45,000 in Mexico, and an estimated 230,000 go missing in the United Kingdom every year.

Child abduction alerts patterned after the AMBER Alert are now implemented in 18 other countries.

The list includes Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Switzerland, and the UK. However, Europe does implement one missing child telephone number across the continent: 116 000.



The lack of a common definition of “missing child,” and a common response to the issue, results in few reliable statistics on the scope of the problem around the world.

Even with this challenge, we know that:

In Australia, an estimated 20,000 children are reported missing every year.
Australian Federal Police, National Coordination Centre.

In Canada, an estimated 45,288 children are reported missing each year.
Government of Canada, Canada’s Missing – 2015 Fast Fact Sheet.

In Germany, an estimated 100,000 children are reported missing each year.
Initiative Vermisste Kinder.

In India, an estimated 96,000 children go missing each year.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Missing Children of India.

In Jamaica, an estimated 1,984 children were reporting missing in 2015.
Jamaica’s Office of Children’s Registry

In Russia, an estimated 45,000 children were reported missing in 2015.
Interview with Pavel Astakhov MIA “Russia Today”, Apr. 4, 2016.

In Spain, an estimated 20,000 children are reported missing every year.
Spain Joins EU Hotline for Missing Children, Sep. 22, 2010.

In the United Kingdom, an estimated 112,853 children are reported missing every year.
National Crime Agency, UK Missing Persons Bureau.

In the United States, an estimated 460,000 children are reported missing every year.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, NCIC.
 
Last edited:
May 2019
229
Salt Lake City, Utah
The Lost German Slave Girl is a wonderful work.

I concur with the conclusion that she was indeed a natural born mulatto female in Louisiana who ingenuously fought her way to legal freedom.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,536
The Lost German Slave Girl is a wonderful work.

I concur with the conclusion that she was indeed a natural born mulatto female in Louisiana who ingenuously fought her way to legal freedom.
I don't agree with that. For one thing, this is one a the few times a slave won his/her freedom in court. I don't think it was easy, and there were many people falsely held as slaves. Her lawyers were going up against one of wealthiest and most well known men in the state.That she did not make the argument herself does not mean she was ingenuous. It was other people who thought she was Salome and made the case.
 
May 2019
229
Salt Lake City, Utah
It was not easy, and it took her years. But, yes, I believe she had been born a slave.

I encourage everyone to read the book.
 

Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,127
Lorraine tudesque
Salomé Müller was from Langensoultzbach in Alsace. Alsace has been a part of France since 1649. Of course her language was an alsatian dialect, in fact a dialect close to my own language. Her Christian name was French and her family name was German.

I have been in Langensoultzbach last week.

1574194088908.png
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,536
How would she be Mulatto if she was born to German parents?
He is thinking the woman who was freed by the lawsuit was not really Salome Muller, but a slave born on a plantation. In any case, the woman who was freed looked totally white.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,536
Salomé Müller was from Langensoultzbach in Alsace. Alsace has been a part of France since 1649. Of course her language was an alsatian dialect, in fact a dialect close to my own language. Her Christian name was French and her family name was German.

I have been in Langensoultzbach last week.

View attachment 24805
The Alsatian woman who discovered Salome in the cafe identified with the German community in majority French speaking New Orleans. The Wikipedia article is technically correct that Alsace became French in 1944.

A relative told me a story about her French class in 1941 when the students were translating "The Last Class", a story set in Alsace in 1873, about the last class in French at the school, and older people coming to the school to hear it. The woman teacher from France completely lost it, breaking down in tears.

The Salome Muller case occurred in Louisiana, the same place as "Twelve Years a Slave". Slave prices were high there, conditions particularly bad on sugar and cotton plantations, and there was a free wheeling frontier atmosphere and more corrupt politics from previous French and Spanish rule.

As for why Salome never claimed to white or indicated memories from before she was at the plantation, she could not have remembered anything from before age 4. She also might have been afraid of what would happened to her if she was returned as a slave to her master.