The Lost German Slave Girl by John Bailey

The Lost German Slave Girl by John Bailey tells the incredible true story of Sally Miller and her fight for freedom in New Orleans of the 1840’s. While in her 20’s Sally Miller was discovered by a local German woman who recognized her as Salome Mueller, a German redemptioner last seen some 20 years prior when a ship load of German immigrants arrived in New Orleans and were sold into bondage in order to repay their passage.

The local German community is horrified that his girl ended up living in slavery. Convinced that a great injustice has been done, they take up her cause and hire lawyers to sue not only for her freedom, but for legal recognization that she is white. Her owners, convinced by long years of ownership during which Sally Miller had four children who were also slaves hire their own lawyers and a trial ensues.

The bulk of the book is based on surviving transcripts, there was one witness who diligently wrote down every answer to every question though he did not write down the actual questions. Both the initial trial and the inevitable appeal make for fascinating and suspenseful reading. Fans of shows like Law and Order will find much to enjoy in The Lost German Slave Girl. The story truly is stranger than fiction and the surprises keep on coming right up to the end of the book. John Bailey does his homework; he presents all of the evidence and makes us both believe the story and root for Sally Miller.

John Bailey provides enough general and specific background that we don’t ever completely lose sight of slavery in America itself. I did ask myself why we should be so compelled to read about how this one white woman suffered when so many millions of black men and women suffered far worse with no hope of ever gaining freedom. The author answers this question in the end of the book, but I cannot give it away here. Mr. Bailey saves his final surprise twist for the last page of The Lost German Slave Girl.

 

This review first ran on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B.  Since then I’ve come to realize that I am one of a handful of people who read this book, which is too bad.  It’s a marvelous book.  Perfect for people who think that history is boring. It’s not. Not at all.

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3 Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    Ha, I was just thinking the very same thing — why to care about this one white woman when slavery caused so much suffering to so many people. Now that I know that question gets answered, I’m definitely going to give this book a try.

    1. It’s a fascinating story. One where things turn out to be different than you think they will. And, it turns out there were a large number of white people, mostly children, who were slaves in all but name in the U.S. No where near the numbers of black slaves, of course, but human suffering is human suffering.

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