I am currently working with the renowned “Scourged Back” photograph and its associated print narratives. The photo and the narratives that surround it, used by C19 abolitionists as a horrific symbol of chattel slavery, continue to draw interest from historians, artists, and civil rights activists. Yet, the identity of the photo’s subject, historically known only as “Gordon,” remains a mystery to scholars. As of late, there has been a renewed scholarly interest in the photograph, with the most prolific scholars arguing that the photograph, its narratives, and the limited biographical information on Gordon were fabricated for the abolitionist cause.
Although much attention continues to be directed toward the photograph and its place in abolitionist history, the notoriety of the photograph overshadows the narrative of the man himself. As such, the biography of the man who is credited with exemplifying the horrors of slavery has been relatively unexplored. However, through my own research, I have been able to identify Gordon’s full name and have located documentation of at least part of his story. I have found archival records that not only corroborate his military service, but that also make note of his scars. In addition, I have located other documents that provide his approximate date of death.
Nevertheless, in order to complete my research and publish my findings, I still have considerable work to do. Much of the work that remains on this project depends on access to archived documents, letters, and photographs that are currently inaccessible due to COVID restrictions. While this project is part of a larger recovery project, my ultimate goal is to recover as much of Gordon’s life story as is possible. In doing so, I hope to restore to him an identity obscured by abolitionist propaganda, thereby extending at least some degree of historical justice to the man behind the image.
Courses taught at SMU: WRTR 1313: Critical Reasoning, WRTR 1312: Writing and Reasoning, DISC 1313: Eyes Wide Open, DISC 1313: Introduction to Academic Writing
Courses taught at University of Texas-Tyler: ENGL 1301: Composition in the Disciplines, IELI 7/8: University Writing for International Students, IELI 5/6: University Writing for International Students