While abolition was not the only cause for which the country went to war in 1861, it was a key issue in the conflict. On one side was the firm belief in property and state rights; on the other hand the need for a strong federal government to hold together the Union. Both sides used whatever tools they had at hand to bolster their argument; biblical verses, narratives of slave rebellions and their threat to public safety, and of course the newly emerging field of photography.
These photographs were taken in New York City and then distributed by photographers across the country. They were used not only to raise awareness about abolition and slavery, but also to raise funds for charities that assisted freed people. The fair skin and Caucasian features of the little girls would have been an indisputable illustration of the barbarity of slavery. Not only were children being held in bondage, but the images also played against the commonly held belief of slaves being “different” in that their skin was darker and their features not what Caucasians woke up to every morning. It is much easier not to care about someone who looks different then to hold in bondage someone who looks like a daughter, granddaughter, or the neighbor’s child.