The Mid-Nineteenth Century Times

by Leo Rocha and Amy Opara

Article 1: Life Within the 1850's

Critical in shaping both the art and media of the latter half of the nineteenth century, the coming of the 1850's signaled a profound era in which the seemingly inherent distinction between both whites and blacks grew unboundedly as slave owners' increasing control of slave life became more distinctly pronounced.

Personal Responses

Leo Rocha:

a) The commercialization of slaves is very obvious in the artwork and media of the nineteenth century. Not only were slaves seen as a source of labor, but they were used as a means to advertise products as well. I assume that most businesses wanted to take advantage of Stowe's success with Uncle Tom's Cabin.


b) I was very surprised to find so many advertisements using black people to promote their products. I always assumed that people back then would stay far away from things that were supported by black people.


Amy Opara:

a) Laced throughout a lot of the artwork and media of the nineteenth century was the idea of a solidified family unit that was constantly depicted showing either a slave owner's wife, his kids, and occasionally all of them together. While a lot of the more obvious themes within this time period deal specifically with the topic of slavery, the subtle emphasis on the concept of a "family" makes itself present, whether seen within the depiction of slave life itself ("Uncle Tom's Farewell") or seen in the depiction of their masters, the concept of "family life" and its strong existence in the 1850's becomes very evident.


b) One of the things I found the most surprising was that in a countless number of photos, the depiction of slaves and slave owners' children as friends was very apparent. In at least 8 or 9 photos there's a depiction of either Eva sitting in Uncle Tom's lap or Eva and Uncle Tom playing a game of some sort-- every photo though portraying the slave in a friendly, almost likable image. Normally, I would have assumed that the view of slaves from all angles would be negative, but in these photos it shows that slaves sometimes had bigger roles than just working in the plantations or fields.