Watch Night: The Emancipation Proclamation

 

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Carte de Visite after William Carlton’s 1863 painting. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.

 

As Frederick Douglass wrote, “We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky, which should rend the fetters of four million of slaves; we were watching, as it were, by the dim light of stars, for the dawn of a new day; we were longing for the answer to the agonizing prayers of centuries.”

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“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” – From The Emancipation Proclamation

The painting hangs in what is now the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House, but was then his office where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The original painting was given as a gift from William Lloyd Garrison to President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and was removed from the White House after President Lincoln’s assassination.

A White House curator found another version at a New York antique shop in 1975. It was presented as a gift to the White House on the 200th anniversary of America’s founding in 1976.

“Heads” Of State: Hitler & Trump Covered


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So, there’s some discussion going on. I think the art director(s) pulled it off with a wink and a nod. Angle of the head, angle of the gaze, line of the mouth, all more than an echo. That plus the rarity of seated figures on Time covers over the years. And yes, I know the H. cover was not a Man Of The Year.

Wendell Phillips Born On This Day 1811

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Relief bust of Wendell Phillips by Edmonia Lewis. The original dates from c. 1864. This signed and dated version was carved in Rome in 1871.

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See @wcaleb on Twitter for an excellent selection of excerpts from Phillips’ writings including this passage.

About Those Safety Pins…

Reading around in print and electronic media, we have all seen the back and forth — some of it over-the-top heated — about the great safety pin question. Today I read the account of a lefty white clergyman friend of worshiping at a predominately black church where the question was raised about allies wearing pins.
      Many congregants in the discussion found it to be a thoughtful gesture. Not a panacea, but a nice gesture that might even make a difference in a given situation. Like the purported powers of chicken soup; it can’t hurt, right?
     So, here’s where I am on the question just now. I choose to see the safety pin worn as a sign of solidarity, or of willingness to offer help, bear witness, or ease a concern, as the secular equivalent of symbols of faith or belief worn and seen everywhere, every day. They, too, might come to speak more loudly as our present circumstance unfolds.
     In the meantime, a little signal of unity on the lapel can’t hurt. And if it can on occasion really help, then shame on any of us for being cynical about the gesture.

 

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A Bust Of John Brown Recovered

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A nice account of the recovery and history of this important marble bust of John Brown by the New England sculptor Edward (sometimes identified as Edwin) Brackett. He was Edmonia Lewis’s teacher in Boston. His influence on her work is particularly notable in her own heroic busts of figures such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others.

Navy Ship Named For SOJOURNER TRUTH


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Yesterday, in the Commonwealth Salon of the Boston Public Library, the Secretary of The Navy led a beautiful and moving ceremony naming two ships in honor of Sojourner Truth and Lucy Stone.

Each ship has a sponsor. The Lucy Stone is sponsored by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was not present but was given a fine round of applause.

The Sojourner Truth is sponsored by Marian Wright Edelman who was there and spoke eloquently. Stirring music by a Navy band.

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Black Deaths As Spectacle

 

Never thought I could bear to post a picture such as this; I’m turning some kind of corner. Let me be clear, I remain vociferous about the need for body cams and cop car video. They must become required standard issue equipment for all officers on duty.

Further, the citizen videos that have shown the world the truth of police brutality against black people have already changed the course of history. They are crucially important and most often beyond heroic.

But I also wonder at the way the steady stream of both sorts of videos plays into and expands the racist mentality that has a history of using such images as vindication and normalization. It’s black death as spectacle, snuff film. Notice how often the bodies are left to lie in the road. Or how the dying black person is handcuffed rather than given emergency care.

And yes, children, black and white, are seeing the videos and are forever shaped by the talk, the responses, the pronouncements they hear about them in their respective worlds.

There is no denying the smug gratification the old (often made into postcards at the time) and new images generate.

[I write this after sitting stunned in my seat listening to a call-in right-wing radio program. The hosts and the callers all but vied in outdoing each other spinning likely scenarios to vindicate the Oklahoma murderer. A whole lot of “well, we can’t really see what he is doing when he lowers his right hand. They might have though he was reaching for a gun.” It was like listening to a bunch of script writers in a writers room, each trying to top the others with “plausible” reasons to shoot the man dead in the street.

And it occurred to me that it is the latest installment in a sort of multi-act interactive performance. A game of Justify The Black Person’s Death.]

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We Mourn And Remember

Sculptor Meredith Bergmann’s 9/11 memorial at The Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York City.

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