The Lost German Slave Girl
John Bailey (Biography)
How could Sally Miller possibly imagine how much her life and future would change on a chance encounter in the spring of 1843. That is what happened when Madame Carl Rouff left her home in Lafayette on that bright morning and travelled across New Orleans to visit her friend in Fauborg Marigny. On her way, she noticed a woman—a slave—who bore a striking resemblance to her beloved friend, Dorothea Müller. But no, it couldn’t be for her friend died on board a ship heading to America. No, it wasn’t Dorothea, but perhaps her lost daughter, Salomé? Could it really be her after twenty-five years without a trace? Was Salomé Müller, the lost daughter of Daniel and Dorothea, finally found? And how could a woman of pure German ancestry be a slave? One chance meeting was about to set off a series of events that would eventually lead Sally Miller all the way to the Supreme Court of Louisiana in one woman’s historic fight for freedom.
In his Author’s Note, John Bailey said that he stumbled upon Sally Miller’s remarkable story while doing research on the laws of American slavery. The breadth of his research is thorough and extensive and he seems to have included everything he gleaned—the rights of slaves and their descendants, the founding of New Orleans, the plight of redemptioners—in his biography of Sally Miller (waste not, want not). On the cover of The Lost German Slave Girl is a quote from The Washington Post declaring, “Reads like a legal thriller.” Not quite. I would say this book comes closer to an immersive (and at times exhaustive) history of slavery in Old New Orleans in the early 19th century. The story does pick up at about 100 pages in (the book is 257 pages not counting the Endnotes) and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader’s attention; however, to get to this point in the story requires a healthy amount of tenacity and grit. Lovers of history and the law will find the abundance of information interesting, but unless you are deeply passionate about either topic, you’ll find the sheer amount of facts and details presented to be a bit to slog through.
Bailey does give readers plenty to think when sharing Sally’s story of freedom, perseverance, and faith. At this biography’s heart is a seemingly simple question: “What is it that binds one person to another?” Love? The law? A sense of duty? For Sally Miller, it was perhaps a little of each depending on her current stage of life. Her story is remarkable, extraordinary, and indeed deserves to be shared if for no other reason than to remind us to never stop fighting for what your heart desires most.
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
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