What Did Thomas Jefferson Think About Vitiligo?
I never really thought about how vitiligo has been viewed throughout history, until I came across a website that was a cornucopia of historical information. Here is an excerpt from the site:
** note: I haven’t verified the information but, nevertheless, it’s a good read.
Putting our bodies on display
For more than 200 years natural philosophers, scientists and showmen have exhibited the bodies of African Americans with white or gradually whitening skin in taverns, dime museums, and circus sideshows. The term White Negro has served to describe individuals born with albinism as well as those who have vitiligo . . .From the book, The White African American Body by Charles D. Martin.
Unlike the negative feelings people have regarding albinism and vitiligo today, for hundreds of years Europeans marveled at us and called us wonderful. Neat, huh? Although we were put on public display, people regarded us as objects of great wonder and beauty. They looked at us somewhat as one would look at a true living unicorn, or an earth-bound angel. We were highly praised, and apart from being property on public display, treated with respect.
The English fairs of the 1700s were the most prolific at exhibiting the body of the White Negro. Everywhere paintings, etchings, wood engravings, prints and reproductions of all kinds were used to bring throngs of spectators to view the spectacle. Souvenir coins were made with the image of a woman known as Mrs. Newsham, the albino Negress. Engravings of George Alexander, The Spotted Boy were made for exhibitions. The European at this time did not consider these people to be of mixed race. There was no confusion. These were Africans: pure and simple.
Several people became famous for either being put on display or for putting themselves on display. The name Henry Moss was as familiar in some parts at the time as Thomas Jefferson, or John Adams. Moss exhibited himself in the 1790s around Philadelphia while giving a history on his changing body. Even George Washington paid a quarter to see this phenomenon. Mind you. A quarter was the usual cost of admission to enter an entire museum. Mr. Moss could get away with charging this much just to see himself alone. Marina Sabrina was one of many children exhibited in a peculiar fashion by today’s standards. She, and others like George Alexander were billed with such names as Piebald Girl or Leopard Boy. They were often depicted as children of nature, sitting on turtles, holding birds and smiling serenely as if they held celestial secrets.
There were even concerts put on by a set of brothers called The Four Snow White Negro Boys. Whose parents were said to be black as jet.
Update: the site that published this article, no longer supports this page. http://www.zebracorn.com/vitiligo.htm