Fannie Virginia Casseopia “Fannie” Lawrence

Fannie Virginia Casseopia “Fannie” Lawrence

Birth
Rectortown, Fauquier County, Virginia, USA
Death unknown
New York, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 95182169 · View Source
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Slave child - She was one of the most photographed of the "slave children" who were used as propaganda tools by abolitionists during the Civil War. These children had very light complexion but because they were of a mixed black/white relationship, they were automatically considered black regardless of their skin color, features or amount of "black blood" they possessed. Many of these children were able to pass as white after the Civil War. Fannie was considered an "octoroon", or someone with 1/8th black African ancestry.

Little is known about Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence seen in the CDV pictures that accompany this memorial. Her birth name was "Fannie" Fletcher. Her mother was a freed slave named Mary Fletcher and her father, reportedly, was Charles Rufus Ayres, the owner of the plantation where she was born. The name Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence was the name given to her when she was baptized in New York. It is thought that her middle name of Virginia was given to her as that was were she was born. And the Lawrence is obviously due to the woman who redeemed her from slavery, Miss Catherine S. Lawrence. It seems obvious that she had a white father and probably other white ancestors as she could have passed for white. The caption on the Carte de' Vista (CDV)photographs states, "Fannie Virginia Casseopia Lawrence: A redeemed Slave Child, 5 years of age. Redeemed in Virginia by Catherine S. Lawrence, baptized at Plymouth Church, by Henry Ward Beecher, May 1863." Beecher of course was one of the leading abolitionist spokesmen and noted preachers in the United States and brother to Harriett Beecher Stowe, the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin". Stowe was the first pastor of this church and remained as such until his death in 1887. Due to his ardent abolitionist beliefs, he was a major player in slave's rights and his church figured prominently in the "Underground Railroad".

The CDV portraits attached to this memorial were copyrighted and distributed commercially in the 1860's to raise funds, presumably for more slave redemption's. Fannie was probably obtained in an area of Virginia occupied by Union military forces. It is believed she was a "freed" slave child after her purported father, was killed by a neighbor who shot him.

The Flicker website had a study of one of her pictures with a quote from Pastor Beecher's sermon as follows:
"The accounts of Fanny Lawrence's presentation and baptism at Plymouth Church in 1863 suggest that Beecher pressed this argument still further. Every account of Fanny's appearance reads much like the following, penned in the dramatic tones of sentimental fiction:
'When the audience supposed that the ceremony was ended, Mr. Beecher carried up into the pulpit a little girl about five years of age, of sweet face, large eyes, light hair, and fair as a lily. Pausing a moment to conquer his emotion, he sent a shiver of horror through the congregation by saying "This child was born a slave, and is just redeemed from slavery!" It is impossible to describe the effect of this announcement. The fact seemed so incredible and so atrocious that at first, the spectators held their breath in their amazement, and were then melted to tears.'"

"Beecher then addressed his audience, explaining that the child, baptized Fanny Virginia Casseopia Lawrence, had been discovered 'sore and tattered and unclean' by a nurse tending Union soldiers in Fairfax, Virginia, who adopted Fanny as her own(Catharine S. Lawrence). 'Look upon this child,' said Beecher, 'tell me if you ever saw a fairer, sweeter face?' Beecher then made explicit the fate that awaited little girls like Fanny. "This is a sample of slavery which clutches for itself everything fair and attractive," he explained. 'The loveliness of this face, the beauty of this figure, would only make her so much more valuable for lust.' Fanny was presented as a white-looking female rescued from the grips of a lecherous slaveholder. Beecher's rhetoric ... also placed Fanny alongside the children of his own congregation, bemoaning slavery's trespasses not upon black children but on 'fair and attractive' white ones. While their children were sheltered from the ravages of slavery, he intoned, Fanny (until 'redeemed') had been left exposed".

Miss Lawrence raised Fannie as her own child. Fannie married while in her teens against Miss Lawrence's wishes, bore two children and died young, before 1895. The location of her remains are unknown but it is assumed she is buried in New York.


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  • Created by: Rick Lawrence
  • Added: 11 Aug 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 95182169
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Fannie Virginia Casseopia “Fannie” Lawrence (1858–unknown), Find a Grave Memorial no. 95182169, ; Maintained by Rick Lawrence (contributor 47207615) Unknown.