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Louisa Picquet, b. 1828?- and Hiram Mattison, 1811-1868
Louisa Picquet, the Octoroon, or, Inside Views of Southern Domestic Life
New York: The Author, 1861.

Summary

Louisa Picquet was born in Columbia, South Carolina. As a baby, she and her mother were sold to a plantation owner in Georgia. They later moved with their master to Mobile, Alabama. When she was approximately thirteen years old, her mother was sold to Mr. Horton, who lived in Texas, and Louisa was sold to Mr. Williams in New Orleans. Louisa lived with him until his death and bore four of his seven children. After he died she was set free and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she married. She also began working to first contact, and then free her mother, who was still enslaved in Texas. The rest of the narrative describes her successful efforts to raise funds for this purpose throughout the north, which eventually led to a reunion between mother and daughter. As she was only one-eighth African American, much of the narrative is concerned with Louisa's whiteness and that of her mother and the other light-skinned slaves who appear in her work. Also highlighted are the many instances of sexual exploitation that Louisa, her mother, and other female slaves experienced at the hands of white men.

Methodist minister and abolitionist Hiram Mattison met and interviewed Louisa Picquet in Buffalo, New York, in May 1860. He became passionate about her attempts to free her mother from slavery, but was unsuccessful in getting her cause on the agenda of a Methodist bishops' meeting. Instead, Mattison published his interview as a way of publicizing her fundraising efforts. He included his own "Conclusion and Moral," emphasizing the many instances of slave women bearing their masters' children, which he says work as "God's testimony to the deep moral pollution of the Slave States." Mattison concludes the work with somber details of slaves being burned alive as punishment.

Works Consulted: Andrews, William L., To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1986.

Monique Prince

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