April 2nd, 2009


Drawing - Kentucky's Crimes


            The picture above described the lynching of Seay J. Miller in Kentucky.  Ida B. Wells did the article and possibly the picture for the Richmond Planet on August 26, 1893.

            During this time John Mitchell Jr. was in charge of the Richmond Plant and was utterly against lynching. He had even received threats of being lynched himself, but he remained loyal to his cause and continued to fight for anti-lynching laws.  John Mitchell Jr. was an African-American newspaper editor, who was unafraid of condemning the actions of the KKK and other racist groups in the South.           

            Ida B Wells was an African- American journalist who supported the idea of equal rights for African-Americans. As a journalist she would often use the newspapers to publicize her ideas. In 1892 three friends of hers from Memphis were lynched by a white mob. After witnessing the lynching she became a fierce advocate for anti-lynching laws.

            During reconstruction up until the 1960s the Ku Klux Klan and other white mobs often used lynching against African Americans. Lynching was a way of intimidating and controlling the African-American populations through fear. Many civil rights activists pushed for anti-lynching laws to be passed by the Federal government. While today lynching is illegal, Congress never passed a formal law. In June 2005 Congress signed a joint resolution apologizing for the failure of Congress to pass anti-lynching laws.

The picture can be found today at the Library of Virginia website. The collection was created in order to show how the African-American community responded to the horrors that they faced after the Civil War. It also shows the contributions John Mitchell Jr. and the Richmond Planet made during this time of intense racism. 


Learning Is Wealth

April 2nd, 2009

This is a photograph called ”Learning is Wealth. Wilson, Charley, Rebecca & Rosa. Slaves from New Orleans”. It was taken by Charles Paxon in 1864. It depicts an African-American man reading to three children. According to the caption, the children are slaves. This leads us to believe that they are the product of mixed race relationships, because they look very white. This photo was spread around in the North to gain sympathy for emancipated slave children who were lacking an education. The fact that the photo is of children that look white could possibly be so that other whites could better relate and have sympathy for slave kids in need of an education.  Paxon had noted that ”The nett proceeds from the sale of these Photographs will be devoted to the education of Colored people in the department of the Gulf, now under the command of Maj. Gen’l. Banks.” Paxon was obviously using this photo for the agenda of gaining help for slave children.

The photograph is a Carte-de-viste, printed on Albumen print. This was one of the most popular way to print photographs at this time, invented in 1850. They were small cards printed on paper that was cheap and easy to make. This method was used commercially, because it was cheap and the cards could be spread around easily.

Thomas Nast Drawings

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.  

Butler Medal

April 2nd, 2009

On October 11, 1864, General Benjamin Butler announced the commission of a medal he wished to award to the African American soldiers deemed to have exhibited exceptional courage while serving under his command during fighting at Ft. Harrison and Ft. Gilmer during the Battle of Chaffin’s Heights in Henrico County, VA a few weeks prior. Butler had intended to use his troops, both white and black, to gain access to the city of Richmond. This is also the battle in which fourteen African American soldiers received the official Medal of Honor. Anthony C. Paquet designed what would come to be known as both the Butler Medal and The Army of the James Medal, and Tiffany’s of New York manufactured the awards before their presentation. The silver medals read “Ferro lis Libertas Perveniet” on the front, which translates to “Liberty Came to them by the Sword.” The reverse bears the phrase “Distinguished Courage Campaign Before Richmond, 1864.”

The Butler Medals became the first and only US military awards created specifically for African American soldiers, though the government has never recognized it as an official military honor. Around two hundred men received the award, and General Butler made it a point to present as many as possible in person. But because the army never recognized the award, the names and origins of all but about twenty-one of the recipients have been lost to history. It is therefore unknown whether these men were free blacks or escaped slaves. What is known, sadly, is that at war’s end the government forbid the recipients’ wearing of their medals with their uniforms. Today one of the medals is owned by the National Museum of American History. A request for clarification as to how the medal ended up in the museum went unanswered by the staff.

Congress officially permitted the employment of black soldiers with the passage of the Second Confiscation and Militia Act of July 17, 1862. It is interesting that General Butler, nicknamed “The Beast,” would be the one to initiate the medal in honor of African American soldiers as he originally opposed the use of black soldiers in the war. His skepticism faded somewhat in the battle for New Orleans when he declared that a desperate need for reinforcements could persuade him to “call upon Africa to interfere and I do not think I shall call in vain.” After capturing the city of New Orleans, Butler helped to bring the formerly Confederate African American unit known as the Louisiana Native Guard under Union leadership. These 3,000 soldiers became some of the first black troops in the Union. Butler also coined the term contraband to describe escaped slaves who joined Union lines.

Butler’s thoughts on the medal in his own words:
“I had the fullest reports made to me of the acts of individual bravery of colored men on that occasion, and I had done for the negro soldiers, by my own order, what the government has never done for its white soldiers – I had a medal struck of like size, weight, quality, fabrication, and intrinsic value with those which Queen Victoria gave with her own hand to her distinguished private soldiers of the Crimea…These I gave with my own hand, save where the recipient was in a distant hospital wounded, and by the commander of the colored corps after it was removed from my command, and I record with pride that in that single action there were so many deserving that it called for a presentation of nearly two hundred.”


See Our Torn Flag Still Waving was written shortly after the Kensington, Pennsylvania Massacre of 1844. The bloody riot specifically targeted Irish Catholics and involved mostly Irish immigrants in opposition to American Nativists.The author is unknown by name and simply annotated as “A Native.” The piece was composed and arranged by James W. Porter and dedicated “respectfully to the American Republicans of the United States.The torn American Flag became the symbol of American Nativism and used by the American Republican party in its fight for immigration restriction.  An article in the Republic, a Nativists magazine, sites Irish carters for disturbing a meeting of the American Republicans and starting the riot.  The Catholic Herald presented a different perpsective. The May 9th article reported the meeting was assembled in order to discuss the disturbance from a prior meeting held by the Irish population. The riots were broken up by police and reconvened on May 3 and 6. Participation in the Kensington Riots involved several Irish fire departments.  Military intervention became necessary to bring an end to the violence on May 7th. The torn American flag was meant to symbolize the tearing apart of America by the influx of immigrants.

This piece of sheet music is part of the Lester S. Levy Collection at Johns Hopkins University.  Levy was an American born Jewish philanthropist from Baltimore, Maryland.  He assembled the collection of sheet music over a 55 year period. The uniqueness of the collection is reflected, not in the music itself but, in what each piece historically represents; celebrations, disasters, wars, as well as movements like abolition  and women’s sufferage.  Levy later concentrated on the illustrations from the covers of the sheet music as a separate historical representation.


Library of Congress. (accessed April 1, 2009)

Johns Hopkins University. Levy Sheet Music Collection (accessed April 19, 2009)

Patrick, Francis. “Riot.” (Philadelphia) Catholic Herald, May 9, 1844. (accessed April 19, 2009)

“Kensington Massacre.” The Republic, A Magazine for the Defence of Civil and Religious Liberty, No. 1 August 1845. (accessed April 19, 2009)

Slave Market

April 2nd, 2009

This is a painting done by an unknown American artist. The actual date this was painted is unknown, but it was created right before the Civil War, sometime between the years of 1850 and 1860. There is a steam boat in the background, meaning that this possibly depicts a scene in Mississippi. This is an oil painting that was done on canvas. The size of this painting is H: 29 3/4 x W: 39 1/2. The official name of this painting is Slave Market. No one knows who painted this picture, which is strange since artists usually sign their name.

This painting has a lot of meaning behind it. First, it shows the importance of the slave market in 19th century America. Secondly, it shows how controversially slavery was, eventually leading to the eruption of the Civil War. This painting shows that the artist is anti-slavery. This can be concluded because the painting shows the cruelty of the slave market. In this painting you can see the grief of the slaves that are being seperated from their families. Behind the woman slave, you can see the master whipping her as her child is laying on the pavement. Behind the male slave, the master is pulling at his hair and arm. While all this commotion is going on, the white people in the background are just simply watching and conversing with each other. This painting depicts the cruelty of slavery and it shows why slavery should be abolished. The woman in the pink dress could possibly be a mulatto, which signifies the sexual relationships between whites and blacks during the 19th Century.

This painting is currently housed in Gallery 3 in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. This painting was given to the museum by Mrs. W. Fitch Ingersoll.