Charles Calvert and Slave

"Charles Calvert and Slave"

John Hesselius, Charles Calvert and Slave, 1761 (Baltimore Museum of Art)


Foster, Helen. New Raiments of Self: African American Clothing in the Antebellum South. New York: Berg, 1997.

Morgan, Phillip D. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry. University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

Baumgarten, Linda. What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal Period America. Colonial Williamsburg, 2002.

McElroy, Guy C. Facing History: The Black Image in American Art, 1710-1940. Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1990.

King, Wilma. Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America. Indiana University Press, 1997.

McMillen, Sally. Motherhood in the Old South: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Infant Rearing. Louisiana State University Press, 1997.

Clinton, Catherine. The Plantation Mistress: Women's World in the Old South Pantheon, 1982.


1. This portrait was one of a group commissioned by elite southerners that also portrays a slave. Discuss this group of paintings and speculate why the Calverts might have wanted to commission a portrait portraying both their son and their son's enslaved companion.

2. Why are these boys dressed the way they are? Is this how they would actually have dressed in the eighteenth century?

3. While the vast majority of slave children grew up in the context of field quarters, a small percentage was raised in and around the house of their white owners. Discuss what we know about the life these children led.

4. Portraits of children were often a celebration of familial status and continuity. Discuss the role of women in raising young sons and indoctrinating them with an understanding of the importance of the family.* 

*You may also wish to use the database “North American Women’s Diaries and Letters” to help you answer this question. http:\\\NWLDlive\

Charles Calvert and Slave