Slavery as It Is

Slavery as It Is

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This colored broadside advertises “The Great Moving Mirror of Slavery,” a travelling panoramic painting exhibited in New England in 1858. Purported to reveal “Slavery As It Is,” this poster contains two preview illustrations. One shows a young girl lying in a canopied bed attended by a doctor, as her mother and a black man sit nearby. The other image depicts a white man riding a bucking horse as three black men and a black woman watch. Headings on the poster advertise, “Scenes in Africa,” an “Auction Sale of Slaves,” and “Life-Like Scenes!” The exhibit also promises a personal appearance by Anthony Burns.
Burns (1834-1862) was born a slave in Stafford County, Virginia in 1834, became a Baptist preacher,and escaped to Boston in 1853/1854. The next year, he was captured, put on public trial, and inspired protest by thousands of abolitionists. Several people were arrested and wounded, while they attempted to free Burns and. return and a U.S. Marshall was fatally stabbed. Under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act, Burns was returned to his "owner" in Virginia. In 1855, Leonard Grimes, a free black Baptist minister bought Burns’ freedom. Burns then travelled north and studied theology at Oberlin College in Ohio and emigrated to Canada and worked as a non-ordained minister. In 1858, he toured with “The Great Moving Mirror,” using the opportunity to sell copies of narrative of his life to sympathetic anti-slavery Northerners. He died in 1862 of tuberculosis at the age of 28, having never regained his health after enduring several months in a Richmond slave jail.
The print was created by the firm of J.H. & F.F. Farwell & Gordon Forrest. The three men founded a Boston lithographic firm active around the middle of the 19th century. Gordon Forrest enlisted in Company G of the First Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War. He was killed on July 18, 1861, during a skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford, Virginia, one of the first engagements of the conflict. Little is known about J.H. and F.F. Farwell. The printers were also known as Farwells & Forest.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Burns, Anthony
Farwells & Forrest
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
engraving (image production method/technique)
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
ink (overall material)
image: 39 3/4 in x 12 3/4 in; 100.965 cm x 32.385 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Reform Movements
African American
Civil War
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
American Civil War Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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