The print Mexican News, which copied a painting by Richard Caton Woodville, highlights the importance of slavery to Americans in the 1800s. Exhibited in 1848, this image shows the moment when America’s victory in the recent Mexican-American War was the most important news of the day.
Although America’s victory was to be the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny—the concept that the United States was destined to spread its ideas and laws across all of North America—the real issue that arose after the war was how to handle slavery in newly acquired American states such as Texas. Woodville suggests this by showing two black figures in the lower right-hand corner. A young African American girl stands in rags next to an older field hand (likely her father), both of whom eagerly listen for news of slavery’s destiny. The father’s face appears anxious yet hopeful, and his daughter’s appearance evokes sympathy from the viewer.
These two figures, as well as the bonneted woman above them, stand outside of the shelter of the American Hotel’s porch. This literal exclusion of these individuals from the porch’s shelter is a metaphor for their exclusion from public and political life before the Civil War.