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Brooklyn Artist Poses Naked at Former Slavery Sites in New York

 Artist Nona Faustine poses at 52 Chambers Street, Tweed Courthouse. The photo is titled
Artist Nona Faustine poses at 52 Chambers Street, Tweed Courthouse. The photo is titled "Over My Dead Body."
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Nona Faustine

LOWER MANHATTAN —  A Brooklyn artist is uncovering the city's history with slavery — using her naked body to shed light on a difficult past.

Wearing nothing but a pair of 1950s-style white heels, artist Nona Faustine poses at various locations around the city, mostly in Lower Manhattan, where slaves were once traded and buried.

The photo series, called "White Shoes," depicts arresting images of Faustine, including one where she stands on a box on Wall Street where nearly 50 men, women and children were once traded as slaves each day.

Her photo unearths a little known history: Wall Street was the location of the city's first slave market. A wooden structure on Wall and Pearl streets held up to 50 slaves at a time who were waiting to be bought or sold. The slave trade operated from 1711 to 1765. Slavery was abolished in New York in 1827.

Faustine poses at several other locations, including the steps of Tweed Courthouse at 52 Chambers Street and the Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street. Many slaves were buried in the grounds around where City Hall now stands.

"The images are my truth," Faustine told the Huffington Post

"...Ours is a haunted, incomplete history, one that contradicts what we are taught about this country and its people. We must acknowledge and pay tribute to those that founded and built this country. Not just some of them, but all of them. Like the thousands of Africans buried under lower Manhattan, there are others in long forgotten places."

Faustine, who grew up in the Crown Heights area, told the Huffington Post that the series was, in part, inspired by an 1850 daguerreotype — an early photographic process — of a semi-naked enslaved woman named Delia.  

Another inspiration was the story of Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman, also known as Venus Hottentot, who was an African woman who was carted around in freak shows during the 1800s displaying her large buttocks, Faustine told the Huffington Post.

"I do believe as human beings we have a responsibility to improve the course of life in whatever way that we can, and artists have a unique role in that," Faustine told the publication. 

"Artists serve as the world’s conscience."

To see more of her images, head to Faustine's website.