April 2nd, 2009
These are two drawings by Thomas Nast that were published in the August 5, 1865 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Unlike some of Nast’s other drawings, these did not appear with a related article.
The first image depicts lady liberty sitting above many people who seem to be asking her for forgiveness. All of the people asking for forgiveness are white men, and many of them were important leaders in the Confederacy, such as Robert E. Lee. The text at the bottom indicates that Lady Liberty wants to know if she can trust these men.
The second picture depicts an African-American who has lost a large portion his right leg. Lady Liberty is standing right beside him with her hand upon his soldier. The setting is very similar to the first image, except Lady Liberty is standing and no one is below her. She is asking why she cannot trust this man as opposed to the other men in the previous image.
The image brings up the question of what should be done with the newly freed slaves and the ex-Confederates. Thomas Nast was a strong Lincoln supporter and an opponent to slavery. Unlike many of the pro-slavery cartoons of the time, the African-American is drawn very similarly to the Lady Liberty, without many of the ape-like characteristics that were popular at the time. In this drawing, Nast depicts the African-American as a hero who deserves to be recognized as such. He clearly as much more respect for the African-Americans who fought for the Union that any American that fought for the Confederacy and believes that the U.S. policy should reflect that.