How were albino slaves treated in the USA?

There’s written records of Albino Black Americans during the era of enslavement in medical journals of the time.

The above drawing is of mother and albino child for the American Medical Association in the book The Transactions of the American Medical Association, Volume 20. The White doctor noted that the albino child is dominant over his non-albino Black child peers and wonders if it’s because of some inherent “superiority of color” or because of the nurture factor of his mother and the Black community gives him extra attention and adoration for their White skinned child. It’s not mentioned if the Aikins family were slaves or free though.

There’s also a detailed account of the albino child’s parents, grandparents, and great grandparent’s appearance, noting which ones were lighter skinned, if there was any known White ancestry, or had vitiligo. Studies of Black albinos and vitiligo seem to go hand in hand.

Another chapter opens with how albinism among Black Americans isn’t all that rare. There’s also a consistent notation on describing albino Blacks’s facial features and hair texture to confirm how they still differ from White Europeans.

Another albino Black man of 1800’s America was Robert Crews, who was a slave. His light sensitivity meant he was unsuited for work in the kitchen with open flames so he was assigned other jobs like driving a wagon and moving furniture. Robert Crews didn’t look like the usual enslaved Black man, but he was still considered property in his country.

He eventually bought his freedom, which the writer attributes to his industriousness and having ‘more than the usual amount of intelligence among Negroes’.

There was a belief at the time that albinism only affected Africans, but the writer points out albinos are found in European and Asian populations too.

There’s also contemporary books that gather information on albino Black Americans and the study and observation of vitiligo like The White African American Body: A Cultural and Literary Exploration:

That book goes into good detail on how these “White” or “spotted” Black Americans were sometimes put on display and how they were ‘scientifically’ studied in the context of institutionalized racism. I think there’s also an account of an albino Black American who passed for White with a light skinned spouse to get a train ticket and escape slavery. When I read more of the book I’ll update this answer.

Courtesy of



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