Exhibited as part of the Forgotten Faces exhibition, this portrait of Fredrick Jordan is an example of one of the many non-European ‘convicts’ or criminals that lived and worked during late Colonial Australia.
Fredrick was an American citizen from an African American slave family in Maryland. Prior to the abolition of slavery, many escaped slaves fled to ports such as Melbourne. Frederick worked on the docks at Melbourne as a coal lumper and had the reputation as a hard industrious worker. He was convicted for the alcohol fueled murder of his lover Minnie Hicks. Prior to his execution, Jordan is recorded to have admitted regretting not heeding his mother’s advice not to “keep straight”.
“Frederick Jordan was born in Maryland around 1867. He was among the first generation of African-Americans to be born free of the yoke of slavery. His parents were itinerant farm labourers. Leaving the land behind, Jordan headed for the ocean, working on vessels all over the eastern seaboard. At the age of fourteen, Jordan left for Australia aboard The Minion.”
From Noni Dowling’s article: ‘Love Is Murder: The fated affair of Frederick Jordan and Minnie Hicks’, Provenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria, issue no. 6, 2007.