Millie-Christine, the “Carolina Nightingale”

Mille-Christine in the 1890s. Image from Wikimedia Commons.On July 11, 1851, the conjoined twins Millie and Christine McKoy were born into slavery in Columbus County.

Bright, engaging, and talented, the twins soon attracted the notice of legendary 19th century showmen, including P.T. Barnum. A bizarre series of sales, kidnappings, and custody battles ensued, blighting the twins’ early years until their mother and her owner tracked them down in England and returned them to the United States.

Their unusual situation highlights the cruel absurdities of slavery laws; their mother could plead for the twins’ return as a free woman in English courts, but on American soil, she and the girls were considered property.

After the Civil War, Millie-Christine took their new-found freedom on the road, with Millie singing alto and Christine soprano while they danced and played the piano in a traveling circus. Audiences knew them as the “Carolina Nightingale.” They traveled around the world, learned several languages and even visited Queen Victoria, who gave them matching brooches.

After earning $25,000 each show season, Millie-Christine were able to purchase the farm where their family had labored as slaves and build a large house, where they retired.

They passed away within hours of each other in 1912 and rest in a double coffin under a tombstone inscribed “A soul with two thoughts.  Two hearts that beat as one.”

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