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Who was Mariah Watkins? What was her identity, and how did appearance inform that identity? Watkins was an African American woman. Although likely born a slave, she lived most of her free years as a woman of property and of skill, working as a documented nurse and midwife in Neosho, Missouri. This paper relies on archival records, photographic analysis, and material culture to explore Watkins as a case study in the challenges of documenting African American appearance during and after the antebellum period in the United States.

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Nov 13th, 12:00 AM

Will the real Mariah Watkins please stand up?: A case of inaccuracy and marginalization of African American history and appearance

Who was Mariah Watkins? What was her identity, and how did appearance inform that identity? Watkins was an African American woman. Although likely born a slave, she lived most of her free years as a woman of property and of skill, working as a documented nurse and midwife in Neosho, Missouri. This paper relies on archival records, photographic analysis, and material culture to explore Watkins as a case study in the challenges of documenting African American appearance during and after the antebellum period in the United States.

 

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