Black elderly enslaved nurse holding hand carders
Original Author: Unknown
Created: ca. 1850
Medium: Daguerreotype

Elderly Woman Enslaved by the Minor Family

This circa 1840 daguerreotype is a portrait of an elderly family nurse enslaved by the Minor family. The woman holds hand carders—paddle-like wooden instruments with bristles on one side that were used to disentangle wool or cotton to create yarn.

John B. Minor, the head of the law school at the University of Virginia from 1845 until 1895, enslaved as many as twenty-one people at one time during his tenure at the university. In addition, he rented additional enslaved laborers over the years. According to notes from his students, the professor taught that slavery was a necessity because “we could not possibly get along, or exist as a society if slaves were emancipated.”

Citation: Minor Family, Papers, 1838-1944, Accession #6055, 6055-a, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.