Race and Gender in de Benabarre’s Saint Michael Angel (c. 1470)

Recently my Decolonizing Museums seminar (Boston University) had a fascinating visit with the interpretive staff at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The team shared their innovative approach to engaging visitors with Pedro García de Benabarre’s magnificent painting Saint Michael Archangel (c. 1470), which hangs over a large fireplace in the second floor Tapestry Room. IContinue reading “Race and Gender in de Benabarre’s Saint Michael Angel (c. 1470)”

Panegyric Imagery in Zanele Muholi’s “Somnyama Ngonyama”

Zanele Muholi’s photographic series of digitally altered self-portraits “Somnyama Ngonyama” (translated by the artist as “Hail, the Dark Lioness”) consists of carefully posed images taken in locations around the world, through which the artist-activist gives voice to a vast number of black South Africans, primarily LGBTQ, long relegated by dominant social institutions to the shadowsContinue reading “Panegyric Imagery in Zanele Muholi’s “Somnyama Ngonyama””

Reflections on Creek Freedmen and Legacies of Enslavement at Emory University

Recently, I gave an invited presentation at the symposium “In the Wake of Slavery and Dispossession: Emory, Racism, and the Journey Towards Restorative Justice” (September 29-October 1, 2021) at Emory University. The gathering sought to draw attention to two critical aspects of Emory’s early history, the enslavement of African Americans, whose coerced labor enabled theContinue reading “Reflections on Creek Freedmen and Legacies of Enslavement at Emory University”

The Column in Between: Re-reading John Rogers’ “The Slave Auction” (1859)

Having written about reenacted slave auctions from the mid-19th century to the present (Auslander 2010; Auslander 2013; Auslander 2015), I am fascinated by John Roger’s 1859 plaster sculpture “The Slave Auction,” which the artist produced in copied format for sale during the Civil War period. Harold Holzer (2015) offers a reading of the piece inContinue reading “The Column in Between: Re-reading John Rogers’ “The Slave Auction” (1859)”

Dreams of a Living Landscape: Apay’uq’s painting “Anerneq”

This post continues our discussion of the work of the artist Apay’uq, who is based in the Bristol Bay region of south-eastern Alaska. (See the artist’s work on her website). Aqay’u’s striking painting, “Anerneq” (Spirit/Breath), 2020, bears the caption, “We are a part of the world, all as beings. We progress and evolve through eachContinue reading “Dreams of a Living Landscape: Apay’uq’s painting “Anerneq””

Barbara Cole Williams (1809-1892): An Enslaved and Free Resident of Georgetown

This short essay attempts to sketch out the life of Barbara Cole Williams (1809-1892), who spent at least the first four decades of her life in slavery at Tudor Place in Georgetown. I share what is known of her life and indicate some of the major mysteries and areas of inquiry that remain. Parentage andContinue reading “Barbara Cole Williams (1809-1892): An Enslaved and Free Resident of Georgetown”

Searching for Three Escapees on The Pearl: The Rosier Men in 1848

April 15, 2023 will mark the 175th anniversary of the escape on The Pearl the largest attempted non-violent escape of enslaved people in American history. On April 15, 1848, approximately seventy-seven enslaved people—according to one account “38 men and boys, 26 women and girls, and 13 small children or infants” — boarded the schooner TheContinue reading “Searching for Three Escapees on The Pearl: The Rosier Men in 1848”

The Iliad in Early America: A Wax and Shell Tableau, 1783

I have been fascinated by an object from the dawn of the American Independence period, a wax and shellwork tableau created by Samuel Fraunces as a gift for Martha Custis Washington. Fraunces (1722 or 1723–10 October 1795), a chef and restaurateur who was later household steward to President Washington, established in 1762 the Queen Charlotte’sContinue reading “The Iliad in Early America: A Wax and Shell Tableau, 1783”

City of Life, City of Death: Two Paintings by Berthold Klinghofer

I am fascinated by two paintings created about four decades apart, by the same artist, Berthold Klinghofer (1893-1975), who is a distant cousin of mine through marriage. “Czernowitz Ringplatz” ( 1911) depicts the fabled central square of Czernowitz, the capital of the Bukovinan region (now divided between Romania and Ukraine) on the eve of WorldContinue reading “City of Life, City of Death: Two Paintings by Berthold Klinghofer”

Families of Yetta (Anderson) Epstein and Bessie Labb

Notes (October 2020) by Mark Auslander I have been puzzling over the early life stories of my mother’s mother Yetta (Anderson?) Epstein (c.1894 or 1897-1959) and her sister “Bessie” (March 1885-17 December 1970), whose initial married name was “Masse Lebed,” and who was later known as “Bessie Labb.” Untilly recently, I had been uncertain ofContinue reading “Families of Yetta (Anderson) Epstein and Bessie Labb”