Millie and Christine McKoy: Putting themselves on display after a childhood of slavery

A more obvious case of exploitation can be found in Millie and Christine McKoy, identical twins joined at the lower spine, sharing one pelvis. Born in North Carolina in 1851, the girls were owned as slaves by a blacksmith, then sold to a showman at 10-months-old for $1,000. They were sold multiple times during the first eight years of their lives, featured as a roadshow attraction for paying customers.

After the Civil War earned them their freedom, Millie and Christine continued to travel, this time willingly putting their rare condition on display in America, Europe, and even further with P.T. Barnum’s circus. Eventually, the girls earned enough money to buy the original McKoy plantation and built a large home where they stayed between tours. Sadly, the house burned down in 1909, and three years later, Millie contracted tuberculosis and died. The next day, Christine took a lethal dose of morphine and died without pain.