ESSAY: Salgado on Art in Schomburg’s Black Atlantic


César A. Salgado | The Visual Arts in Arturo A. Schomburg’s Black Atlantic:

“…Although there is no date on the prospectus, Schomburg’s book project on Negro Painters was part of the third and last phase in his career as a Harlem/Brooklyn intellectual, antiquarian, and race leader. This phase begins in 1926, after he sells his legendary collection to the New York Public Library and uses the money to travel abroad on a two month “grand continental tour” in search of representations of and by Black subjects throughout the great art museums of Europe. Schomburg scheduled research and acquisition visits to archives, booksellers, and antiquarian shops throughout his trip, including consulting at Seville’s Archivo General the ecclesiastical records of the city’s Cofradía de Negritos and purchasing 185 bibliographical items that he later donated to the NYPL Schomburg collection. Still, we know from his letters and writings that Schomburg’s main concern in this voyage was the study of European studio painting by or about Afro-descendants dating from or inspired by High Renaissance academic techniques in portraiture and spatial perspective.

Schomburg’s fascination with the explosive artistic innovations and accomplishments of the Early and High Renaissance, particularly those of the escuela de Sevilla, date back to a 1916 piece he published in Crisis on the legend of Sebastian Gómez, el mulato de Murillo. Here Schomburg referred to Juan Ceán Bermúdez’s 1800 Diccionario Histórico de los mas illustres profesores de las Bellas Artes en España in order to present Gómez as a slave who won both his freedom and his admission into the Seville school because of the painting skills he learned surreptitiously, watching his master work while serving as a pigment crusher. Schomburg would later write a short biographical article about another famous Renaissance mulatto servant/painter, Juan de Pareja, who posed for one of his master Diego Velazquez’s most famous portraits. The participation of black slave artists in the school of Seville was the topic of Schomburg’s most important (and still unpublished) address to the American Negro Academy during his tenure as president—“Fragmentary Tribute to Spanish Negro Painters of the School of Seville,” given on December of 1923…”

Read the rest at (H/T The Public Archive)

Image Credit: “Arthur Schomburg, ca. 1896″ / Arthur Alfonso Schomburg collection. / Personal photographs, 1870s-1980s / Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture / Photographs and Prints Division

ESSAY: Shaffer on Emancipation and “What Mattered More?”

As 1862 drew to a close, as far as emancipation was concerned the nation’s attention was riveted on whether President Abraham Lincoln would finalize the Emancipation Proclamation. They had little to worry about on that score. In the last days of 1862, Lincoln and his cabinet were not debating whether the administration should go ahead with the proclamation, but fussed over its exact wording. While these details certainly were important, it was clear from the discussions that the Emancipation Proclamation was going ahead.

Far from Washington, D.C., however, out in the country other things were happening that make the Lincoln administration putting the final touches on the Emancipation Proclamation seem not quite so important, as titanic a milestone as it was. One such place was Helena, Arkansas, west of the Mississippi River, far from the national capital. Like other parts of the Confederacy that had come under the control of federal forces, slaves in the vicinity fled to Union lines. Yet instead of finding protection, many of the slaves in Helena, Arkansas, instead found mistreatment from the Yankee soldiers and officers.

A committee of chaplains and surgeons reported these injustices to the Union commander of the Army of the Southwest, Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis, in a letter dated December 29, 1862. They wrote:

Read the rest: What Mattered More? | Civil War Emancipation.

ESSAY: Foner on Lincoln & the Emancipation Proclamation

Raymond Verdaguer

The Emancipation Proclamation is perhaps the most misunderstood of the documents that have shaped American history. Contrary to legend, Lincoln did not free the nearly four million slaves with a stroke of his pen. It had no bearing on slaves in the four border states, since they were not in rebellion. It also exempted certain parts of the Confederacy occupied by the Union. All told, it left perhaps 750,000 slaves in bondage. But the remaining 3.1 million, it declared, “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

The proclamation did not end slavery in the United States on the day it was issued. Indeed, it could not even be enforced in most of the areas where it applied, which were under Confederate control. But it ensured the eventual death of slavery — assuming the Union won the war. Were the Confederacy to emerge victorious, slavery, in one form or another, would undoubtedly have lasted a long time.

A military order, whose constitutional legitimacy rested on the president’s war powers, the proclamation often disappoints those who read it. It is dull and legalistic; it contains no soaring language enunciating the rights of man. Only at the last minute, at the urging of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, an abolitionist, did Lincoln add a conclusion declaring the proclamation an “act of justice.”

Nonetheless, the proclamation marked a dramatic transformation in the nature of the Civil War and in Lincoln’s own approach to the problem of slavery. No longer did he seek the consent of slave holders. The proclamation was immediate, not gradual, contained no mention of compensation for owners, and made no reference to colonization.

Read the entire essay: The Emancipation of Abe Lincoln –

(H/T Civil War Emancipation)

The (brand new!) Junto Blog has a round up of posts related to Lincoln, the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation: Then, Thenceforward, and Forever Free « The Junto.

SPECIAL to #ADPhD: Rael on “Lincoln’s Unfinished Work”

Lincoln, Official Poster

Lincoln, Official Poster

Lincoln’s Unfinished Work
Patrick Rael (Bowdoin College)
Special to African Diaspora, Ph.D.

Amidst the widespread discussions of Steven Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln, few have sought to place the film within its own tradition of Civil War films. There’s nothing new, of course, about focusing a film on the character of Abraham Lincoln, though it has been well over thirty years since a major television or film production took him seriously (Hal Holbrook in Sandburg’s Lincoln [1974]).

In the early days it was different. The American film industry grew around his figure. In The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s ground-breaking, racist masterpiece of 1915, Lincoln appeared as a wizened and tolerant executive at war with the maniacal Radical Republicans, whose racial tolerance merely masked their desire for vengeance against the rebels. In Griffith’s film, Lincoln’s premature death unleashed the Radicals, necessitating the bloody turmoil of Reconstruction. In the form of the Ku Klux Klan, only the energized spirit of white supremacy could save white womanhood — and, indeed, Anglo-Saxon civilization — from the rampaging black beast.

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FILM/ESSAYS: Chronicle “Conversation” on Spielberg’s Lincoln

Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln

Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln

The Conversation Blog at the Chronicle of Higher Ed hosted a roundtable on Spielberg’s recent release Lincoln:

As viewers flock to see Lincoln, and reviewers rave about Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, historians are raising different issues: How accurate is the film’s portrayal of emancipation? What does it leave out? The Chronicle Review asked several scholars to weigh in.

Posts include:

Kate Masur, “A Filmmaker’s Imagination, and a Historian’s”

Harold Holzer, “Reel Lincoln: The Case for the Spielberg Film”

Barbara Krauthamer, “Slavery’s Grotesque and Relentless Violence”

Nina Silber, “Spielberg: Reconciliation or Reconstruction?”

Thavolia Glymph, “Untellable Human Suffering”

via The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

ESSAY: Hahn on the “Legacy Of Eugene Genovese”

“Yet no book of Genovese’s has had the impact of Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (1974). A long, complex, almost Hegelian treatment of the master-slave relation – and of the dynamics of power that were embedded within it – Roll, Jordan, Roll is a study of intense struggle, unfolding over decades, that enabled slaveholders to establish political and cultural hegemony but also enabled slaves to claim basic rights for themselves and room for their communities. At the book’s center is slave religion, at once a concession to the cultural authority of the masters and a celebration of the slaves’ solidarity, spirituality, and destiny–a measure of the contradictory character of the slave regime. Replete with comparative and international references, political allusions, and literary flourishes, Roll, Jordan, Roll may well be the finest work on slavery ever produced.

But it, along with the rest of Genovese’s early work, had serious critics, especially on the left. While acknowledging his analytical skills, many felt that Genovese was too admiring of the slaveholders’ power and too dismissive of the slaves’ rebelliousness; too interested in class and not sufficiently interested in race; too focused on the pre-capitalist features of southern society and the paternalist ethos of the masters; and too blind to the capitalist impulses of an intensely commodified world….”

Read the rest: From Radical To Right-Wing: The Legacy Of Eugene Genovese | The New Republic.

INTERVIEW: Rice x Caryl Phillips on African Atlantic Memory

Caryl Phillips / Source: Center for Creative Arts

Alan Rice. “A Home for Ourselves in the World: Caryl Phillips on Slave Forts and Manillas as African Atlantic Sites of Memory.” Atlantic Studies 9, no. 3 (2012): 363–372.

“This interview with the black Atlantic writer Caryl Phillips focuses on his non-fiction works and interrogates his ideas on the African diaspora and memorialisation, paying particular attention to such locales as African slave forts and European museums. It also discusses his latest work – a play about the 1940s friendship between Richard Wright and C.L.R. James. The interview discusses the long view of memorialisation on the transatlantic slave trade and interrogates the importance of the bicentenary celebrations of the abolition of the trade in Britain in 2007 to new structures of feeling and curriculum developments that have made the issues raised by the slave trade and its aftermath more central to British historiography. A final section discusses African diaspora communities and their challenge to find a home space amidst the detritus of slavery. Phillips discusses the importance of a slave manilla in his quest for an anchor for memory.”

This special issue of Atlantic Studies, “The Slave Trade’s Dissonant Heritage: Memorial Sites, Museum Practices, and Dark Tourism,” included articles by Alan Rice, Johanna C. Kardux, Lubaina Hamid, Charles Forsdick, Marian Gwyn, Anne Eichmann, and Senam Okudzeto.

Full text via Taylor and Francis ($$).

NEWS: Heywood and Thornton Dispute Obama’s Slave-Ancestors Report

“As stated in the Times piece, genealogists from said they have evidence that “strongly suggests” that through his white mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, President Obama had an enslaved ancestor in the 17th century named John Punch: “In 1640, Mr. Punch, then an indentured servant, escaped from Virginia and went to Maryland. He was captured there and, along with two white servants who had also escaped, was put on trial. His punishment — servitude for life — was harsher than what the white servants received, and it has led some historians to regard him as the first African to be legally sanctioned as a slave, years before Virginia adopted laws allowing slavery.

We should immediately note, though, that the word “slave” was rarely used in documents generated in Virginia in 1640 — at least, not in the legal sense of a condition of constant and inheritable servitude. Africans were, however, usually identified in documents as “negroes.” In fact, this was by far the most common term for people of African descent in Virginia records…..

…When John Punch was captured as a runaway with two white servants, the court extended his term of service to lifelong. In this case, the court made a definitive decision only about his length of service, but the other Africans may well have had to serve for life before him, lacking the contract needed to be guaranteed freedom. In their cases, the terms were irregular and determined by their masters….”

(Read the rest at The Root: Obama: Slave-Ancestors Report Misses the Mark)