In 1818, a large German family fled poverty in Germany and arrived in Louisiana. Orphaned and separated from their extended family by indentured servitude, two little girls disappeared. Twenty five years later, a German immigrant woman met a light skinned slave woman she believed to be Salomé Müller, one of the missing girls. Although Mary Miller has no memory of a German childhood, she is renamed Sally Miller (an Anglicization of Salomé Müller) and a legal team is soon fighting for her freedom as a white woman.
The Lost German Slave Girl follows the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court and traces the history of slavery in Louisiana. White looking slaves were not unusual in the antebellum South, slave women had born their masters children for generations, but a person of entirely European ancestry could not legally be kept as a slave. This dichotomy required some serious mental gymnastics, but legally if the mother was a slave, so was the child. Looking white was irrelevant to Sally Miller’s case, the central issue for the court was the race of Sally’s mother. Was she the daughter of a German immigrant or the daughter of a slave?
Although the author makes his opinion known, in the end it is left up to the reader to decide whether Sally was a German girl sold into slavery by an opportunist or a woman born into slavery who saw a chance at freedom. The book is a bit dense, but it was one of the more interesting books I read in 2011 (thought it was published in 2002). If you’re interested in race as a social construct and the laws governing slavery, I think you’ll enjoy this book.
The Lost German Slave Girl on Amazon