Freemen of Color. ca. 1830
This hand-colored daguerreotype was taken by photographer William A. Pratt in antebellum, or pre-Civil War, Virginia. The photograph shows two African-American men outfitted in a manner that does not imply that they were enslaved at the time the photograph was taken. They are finely dressed is suits and silk cravats, and one of the men wears a gold ring and fob, or chain, to a pocket watch. The man on the left has his arm over the other man’s shoulder, implying friendship. This rare photograph of two well-off African-American men in mid-19th century America reveals the small, but possible, opportunity for a prosperous life that free men were able to live.