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Man Discovers Precious Photos of Enslaved Women On eBay

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Reported by Kacie Whaley

An historic gem has recently been discovered on eBay that has the National Park Service stunned.  The artifact is a double-photograph of a woman enslaved by Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Selina Norris Gray worked as a personal slave for Lee’s wife, Mary, at the family’s home, Arlington House.  After Lee joined the Confederacy and the Civil War began, Mary moved away (because of the house’s closeness to the Union capital), but told Gray to take good care of the Arlington, Virginia mansion and the family’s George Washington heirlooms in her absence.  Mary was the great-granddaughter of the first U.S. president’s wife, Martha, so growing up, her family was very close with the Washingtons, and she kept some of his items as memorabilia.

In May of 1861, Union soldiers took over and destroyed much of the house, but Gray, remaining loyal to Mary, guarded each trinket and heirloom left in Arlington House that belonged to Washington.

Last month, Dean DeRosa, a National Park volunteer, saw that a photograph of Gray and who they believe to be her two children was being auctioned on eBay by someone in England who found it in a box they received at a yard sale.  Since the park manages Arlington House, they were anxious to get a hold of such a rare piece of memorabilia, as reported by Washington Post.

The park’s nonprofit partner, Save Historic Arlington House, bid on the picture against “stiff competition,” and won.

“It’s incredibly rare to have photos of slaves that we can identify,” National Park Service spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said Thursday. “Since slaves were property, it’s really hard to identify the people in images like this.  This is a priceless item to add to our collection.”

The park considers Gray to be an important part of the Arlington legacy because she not only helped preserve Washington’s furniture, china, and art by personally telling Union soldiers to keep their hands off the artifacts, but she took part in having the priceless items moved to the Patent Office so they would not be stolen or tampered with.

“She had incredible courage,” Anzelmo-Sarles said. “So we owe a lot to being able to tell the story of our first president to this enslaved woman.”

Gray had been enslaved at Arlington House from birth until 1862, when she was finally freed.  She raised eight children with her husband, Thornton Gray.  She died in 1907.

Sources: 1, 2

7 Comments

  1. Clarissa Bennet

    October 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    One of the perfect “house slaves!” “Massa we is sick!” Wonder where her descendants are today!!

  2. Pernell Parham

    October 13, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    The fact is, not only are we equal, we are better, and they know it! Why would you try to obliterate someone’s history if there wasn’t something you didn’t want them to know? We are the true chosen people, and they know that to keep us down keeps them in power. If they were to show how the Moors brought “enlightenment” to the European savages, who were the true cannibals, they would also have to say that GOD was black! Our history has been eradicated! Pretty much all of the inventions related to agriculture were invented by blacks, but because we were considered less than human and had no rights, the slavemasters and their kin reaped the benefits of proceeds and the rights to patents. Do you really think Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb?

  3. jake

    October 14, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Her relatives are passing as white with fuzzy blond hair

  4. Tiamette

    October 14, 2014 at 9:35 am

    God created man, not people. He created us to be equal, man’s hate and pride is what caused those in power to treat others as property. Africans did it to each other long before the white man. Africans sold slaves to white people. We are only concentrating on one segment of our history as a people. Look at what is happening in Africa today, slavery is widespread. The white man today is no worse to us than we are to each other.

    • Wiser

      October 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Tiamette, honey you should not put false information out there like that. Enough of that nonsense it spread by the pink society, we are trying to eradicate the lies not feed into them and spread them heavily amongst ourselves.

    • Pinky

      October 15, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      No Wiser Tiamette is correct. Anthony Johnson was a Negro from modern-day Angola who was the first documented slave holder and he was black. He even went to court for the right to hold other blacks as indentured servants. The truth is not always pretty but it is the truth. And yes Africans did sale other Africans. Not so much their own people but their enemies. So of my African friends like to say “Africans were not selling “their own”, they were selling their enemies,They were no more selling “their own” than, say, “Europeans” were killing “their own” during the Holocaust.” But plain truth is yes we sold each other

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