The Atlantic

The ‘Loyal Slave’ Photo That Explains the Northam Scandal

The governor’s yearbook picture, like many images before it, reinforces the belief that blacks are content in their oppression.
Source: Library of Congress

The yearbook photo that appears on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s personal page, featuring a man in blackface and another in a Klan robe, looks to me like a modern update of a familiar image from the Civil War, of a Confederate soldier from the slaveholding class posing with his body servant. The history of the Civil War pairing clarifies the meaning of the Northam scandal.

Perhaps the most famous of the soldier-slave photographs depicts Sergeant Andrew Chandler and his uniformed body servant, Silas Chandler. Andrew served in the 44th Mississippi Infantry in the Army of Tennessee from 1861 to 1863. Camp slaves such as Silas were expected to oblige their masters’ every

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