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Of all the photographs in the series of former slaves from New Orleans, this is the one that indicates most directly a key goal of the publicity campaign: to provide education for these former slaves. The children gather around Charley, as if in a family. Little Rosa seems exhausted and fed up with must have been a very long day in the photographer’s studio.

Although this image might seem innocuous to a modern viewer, it must be remembered that teaching a slave to read was a crime in the slave states. It was understood that literacy was an essential step on the path to liberation and autonomy, which was either a hope or a threat, depending on whether one’s aim was liberty or preserving the domination of the masters.