Bélizaire was a young man of mixed-race lineage, enslaved by the family of the banker and merchant Frederick Frey in early 19th-century Louisiana. He was about 15 years old when the famous French neo-classical portraitist Jacques Guilliaume Lucien Amans arrived at the Frey home on Royal Street in the French Quarter to paint a portrait.
Like other wealthy Louisiana families, the Freys were probably thrilled to commission a painting of their young family as an emblem of their status among New Orleans’ elite. They’d owned Bélizaire since he was 6, and with the Freys having sold all of his siblings (save one) in the span of time since then, it seems clear that the young man knew no other family. He’d spent nearly a decade taking care of their precious children, picking up after them day after day, playing games with them, and serving as their sitter and caretaker. He was indeed a valued and even beloved possession, if not an actual member of the family. The year was (probably) 1837, and in the free-thinking spirit of the times, the Freys must have felt, why not include him in the painting?
RELATED STORY: Florida looked for ‘opposing viewpoints’ on slavery
Powered by WPeMatico