Top 5 Most Renowned Captives in History

Fredrick Ngugi May 19, 2017
Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: May 19, 2017

4. Margaret Garner (America)

Margaret Garner

A portrait of Margaret Garner when she killed her daughter. Photo credit: Cincinnati Enquirer

Described as a mulatto, a person with one White and one Black parent, Margaret Garner was born in 1834 in Boone County, Kentucky, on a plantation belonging to John Pollard Gaines who is believed to be her father.

While little is known about her mother, Garner is remembered for killing her own daughter so that she would not be returned to slavery.

In 1856, she and her family had escaped slavery and fled to Cincinnati, Ohio, but slave catchers and the U.S. Marshals found them hiding in a neighbor’s house.

Garner killed her 2-year-old daughter with a butcher knife rather than see her returned to slavery.

The Marshals, however, managed to subdue her before she could kill the rest of her four children and herself.

Her story was the basis of Frances Harper’s 1859 poem “Slave Mother: A Tale of Ohio” and also inspired Kentucky painter Thomas Satterwhite Noble’s 1867 painting “The Modern Medea.”

Medea was a woman in Greek mythology who killed her own children.

U.S. award-winning author Toni Morrison also based her 1987 novel “Beloved” on Garner’s life. Oprah Winfrey would bring the book to life in the eponymous film in 1998.

Watch the “Beloved” trailer here:

Garner died of typhoid in 1858.


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