Huffpost Black Voices

Trove Of Artifacts Trumpets African-American Triumphs

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NEW DELHI, INDIA - MAY 16:.Paintings and photographs on display at the the show'A Woman's Worth' exhibiting work of Russian-born-Israeli painter Suzi Levi and herAfrican-American friend and photographer, Johnette IrisStubbs at IIC Annexe art Gallery in New Delhi. (Photo by Ramesh Sharma/India Today Group/Getty Images) | Mail Today via Getty Images

Seventeen-year-old Tonisha Owens stared wide-eyed at the faded script on an 1854 letter. It was once carried by another 17-year-old — a slave named Frances. The letter was written by a plantation owner's wife to a slave dealer, saying that she needed to sell her chambermaid to pay for horses. But Frances didn't know how to read or write, and didn't know what she carried.

"She does not know she is to be sold. I couldn't tell her," the letter reads. "I own all her family and the leave taking would be so distressing that I could not."

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