De’Ah, a maid, about 1900

This photograph was taken in 1900c., over 60 years after slavery was abolished in the British Empire, and 35 years after Emancipation in the United States. The photo shows a maid playing with a little girl called Gabriel Frances Musson. The family had employed De’ah as a maid when she was only fourteen. De’ah’s mother had been enslaved in the USA. Although De’ah was free, she had little option but to work as a domestic maid. Although there were also many European servants, De’ah’s skin colour and the Jim Crow Laws (which enforced racial segregation in the Southern states of the USA) would have reinforced her position as a servant. This is a 20th-century photograph, which tells us that although we often think of transatlantic slavery as something that happened in the 18th century, its influence lasted much longer.

© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK

Accession reference: National Maritime Museum, ZBA2635