Jaavon and the Unknown Gentleman, 2011. Titus Kaphar.
Gentleman with Negro Attendant, 1785-88. Ralph Earl
Jaavon and the Unknown Gentleman was commissioned by the New Britain Museum of American Art as a contemporary commentary on the Colonial-era work Gentleman with Negro Attendant, by Ralph Earl. The resulting painting is the first in a new series that focuses on identity. Kaphar explains:
"Much of black history recorded in Western art is summarized visually by three roles: enslaved, in servitude, or impoverished. But beyond this limited social order lies a people of dignity and strength, whose survival is nothing less than miraculous. Within the context of 19th century paintings, most black characters play, at best, secondary roles int he composition. The implication of hierarchy through compositional positioning (that is, figures in the composition) is a fundamental theme explored in this piece.
In many paintings from this period the prototypical image of a black person was as a slave or servant, just outside of illuminated areas of importance. The characters in the shadows were there to add balance to the overall composition and emphasize, or accentuate, the statue of the “important” character being painted.
In the original painting Gentleman with Negro the black child is stripped of all identity. He has no name, grotesquely articulated features, and is bereft of human dignity. In Jaavon and the Unknown Gentleman, the black figure is replaced with a living and particular child — my young neighbor.”
"To make our way, we must have firm resolve, persistence, tenacity…we can never let up."
Sarah Graves- Eyewitness To History- Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938
Childhood and girlhood memories are vivid to Sarah Frances Shaw Graves, an 87 year old woman whose indomitable courage and steadfast purpose overcame obstacles and made possible the ownership of the 120 acre farm near Skidmore, on R. F. D. #4, where she lives with her bachelor son, Arza Alexander Graves…
Sarah Frances Shaw Graves, Age 87
"I was born March 23, 1850 in Kentucky, somewhere near Louisville. I am goin’ on 88 years right now. (1937). I was brought to Missouri when I was six months old, along with my mama, who was a slave owned by a man named Shaw, who had allotted her to a man named Jimmie Graves, who came to Missouri to live with his daughter Emily Graves Crowdes. I always lived with Emily Crowdes."
The matter of allotment was confusing to the interviewer and Aunt Sally endeavored to explain.
"Yes’m. Allotted? Yes’m. I’m goin’ to explain that, " she replied. "You see there was slave traders in those days, jes’ like you got horse and mule an’ auto traders now. They bought and sold slaves and hired ‘em out. Yes’m, rented ‘em out. Allotted means somethin’ like hired out. But the slave never got no wages. That all went to the master. The man they was allotted to paid the master."
"I was never sold. My mama was sold only once, but she was hired out many times. Yes’m when a slave was allotted, somebody made a down payment and gave a mortgage for the rest. A chattel mortgage… ."
"Allotments made a lot of grief for the slaves," Aunt Sally asserted. "We left my papa in Kentucky, ‘cause he was allotted to another man. My papa never knew where my mama went, an’ my mama never knew where papa went." Aunt Sally paused a moment, then went on bitterly. "They never wanted mama to know, ‘cause they knowed she would never marry so long she knew where he was. Our master wanted her to marry again and raise more children to be slaves. They never wanted mama to know where papa was, an’ she never did," sighed Aunt Sally.
More than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. This online collection is a joint presentation of the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs Divisions of the Library of Congress and includes more than 200 photographs from the Prints and Photographs Division that are now made available to the public for the first time. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html
If you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you may have seen me put out a request recently for some happier history fare. I’d spent the weeks leading up to that request researching the Doctors’ Riot, the Battle of Blair Mountain and the subject of today’s episode – the Tulsa race riot of 1921, also known as the destruction of Black Wall Street. Holly and I have to pause our recording because we’ve become emotional often enough that it’s become kind of a running joke between us. This is the first time I’ve had to pause my research for that reason. I’d never heard of the event before listeners requested it, in part because it was deliberately swept under the rug for nearly half a century after it took place.
The population in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma, boomed prior to 1921, thanks to the discovery of oil in the area. The Tulsa suburb of Greenwood grew into a thriving African-American community thanks to a combination of segregation and black entrepreneurship. On May 31 and June 1, a mob of white Tulsa citizens, including sworn law enforcement and members of the National Guard, burned it down after being thwarted in their attempt to lynch a young black man for a crime he did not commit. Thousands lost their homes, and hundreds died.
For those even slightly familiar with Peace Corps history, you’ve almost definitely heard about Sargent Shriver, the first agency Director and the person credited right after President Kennedy with the agency’s founding.
Lesser known but equally due founding credit is Franklin H. Williams (above left, with Shriver), an African American civil rights lawyer, diplomat and foundation president who worked to improve interracial relations in the U.S. He joined Director Shriver as his Special Assistant in 1961 and later became the agency’s Africa Regional Director.
Williams’s career was illustrious before and after Peace Corps. He began his law career at the NAACP, first as assistant special counsel to Thurgood Marshall, where he argued cases before the Supreme Court, and later as the West Coast Regional Director. At the NAACP Williams conducted drives for legislation on minority employment and won the first judgment in a case involving school desegregation. As Assistant Attorney General in California, he created the state’s first Constitutional Rights Section within the Department of Justice. After serving on Peace Corps staff, Williams served as Ambassador to Ghana in the administration of President Johnson, and from 1970 to 1990 he served as the president of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, an organization established to enhance educational opportunities for Africans, African Americans and American Indians.
August 4, 1901: Louis Armstrong is Born
On this day in 1901, Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, nicknamed “Satchmo,” was born in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. Armstrong is best known for his inventive and energetic performing style which focused primarily on solos rather than ensembles. In addition to singing and playing the trumpet, Armstrong also appeared in over 30 movies and wrote two autobiographies during his lifetime.
Photo: Library of Congress
Anonymous said: do you have any posts on us environmental history? i checked if you had a tag for it but didn't find one. thanks :)
As far as I recall, I do not.
Alice Paul, American feminist and women’s rights activist, shakes the hand of “youngest Colorado feminist” Mildred Bryan.
In the 1920’s Harlem was a bustling neighborhood and hubspot for African American artistic excellence. It was home to writers, philosophers, actors, musicians, and the like who all helped contribute to an era of great growth for African American art, literature, and culture.
During this time, Harlem was often welcoming for LGBT people and they formed a community, hanging out at famous spots like Connie’s Inn and the lavish parties held in the home of A’Lelia Walker.
In celebration of Pride Month this Five You Should Know post identifies black cultural icons of the Harlem Renaissance who identified as LGBT, both publicly and privately.
A literary genius, James Baldwin explored the themes of race, sexuality, and class in his writing. A staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Baldwin moved abroad in his early twenties to distance himself from American prejudice and would spend most of his life living away from the United States. One of his most famous works, “The Fire Next Time” is still used to illustrate and facilitate discussion around race today.
A celebrated writer and activist, Baldwin also maintained close relationships with other literary heavyweights like Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, and Maya Angelou.
More on Baldwin’s life and legacy in this New York Times Obituary.
Bessie Smith started her blues career singing on the Theatre Owners Booking Association (TOBA) circuit that catered to African American audiences and performers. Her powerful voice caught the attention of Clarence Williams, a popular composer during the 1920s. Smith recorded her first single, “Down-hearted Blues” with Williams and became the most successful vaudeville blues singer of her time. She would go on to record with other jazz instrumentalists including: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Green, Joe Smith, Tommy Ladnier, and James P. Johnson.
Smith along with Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, and Gladys Bentley defied the common gender stereotypes of the times and they often sang lyrics hinting at their love for other women, although Bentley is the only one to have publicly confirmed her sexuality.
Listen to Smith’s voice.
Mabel Hampton was a writer, activist, and former dancer. She moved to New York City in her early twenties and first worked as a domestic.
Hampton was heavily involved in theater, dancing in cabarets like the Garden of Joy and even appeared in several all-black productions at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. In the early 1920’s Hampton was arrested on trumped up prostitution charges and was incarcerated at Bedford Hills Reform School for Women.
Listen as Hampton discusses being “in the life” during the 1920’s in Harlem.
Richard Bruce Nugent was born and raised in Washington, DC to a family in DC’s high black society. He eventually met and befriend Langston Hughes at Georgia Douglas Johnson’s famous artistic salon and the two would go on to publish, Fire!!, a black revolutionary literary magazine. They later became prominent members of the Harlem Renaissance scene. Since Nugent was openly gay, he would draw and write under the pseudonym “Richard Bruce” to avoid igniting the disapproval of his family,
His most famous work, “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” was the first published African American literary work to feature a prominent gay theme.
Gladys Bentley began her blues career singing at rent parties and buffet flats in Harlem, New York. As her popularity grew, she began performing at Harry Hansberry’s Clam House, a notorious speakeasy in “Jungle Alley” that was frequented by LGBT people during the 1920s.
Openly lesbian, Bentley wore men’s formal wear during many of her performances and her powerful voice was backed by men dressed in drag. She would later denounce her lesbianism during the McCarthy era in a now famous piece published in Ebony Magazine entitled “I Am Woman Again.”
Post compiled by Lanae S., Digital Content Specialist, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
June 28, 1969: Police Raid the Stonewall Inn
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. That night, the street erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations that lasted for the next three days.
The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.
In 2011, American Experience released the film “The Stonewall Uprising.”
Today, on the 44th anniversary, we invite you to:
• Explore the milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement
• View photos of the Stonewall Uprising
• Watch the full film The Stonewall Uprising (Run time: 01:22:03)