Unstolen Dignity

Reaffirming the dignity of enslaved Americans.

This portrait series recognizes the sacrifices and hardships of enslaved Africans. While their contributions are often overlooked in history, 12 million enslaved people were the backbone of American prosperity for more than 400 years. These paintings pay homage to their legacy.

Each painting is done in oils to convey a sense of stateliness. The portraits are designed to reveal the dignity of each subject, a dignity enslavement was unable to steal from them. A short narrative accompanies each portrait. Together, they tell the stories of real Americans who endured the dehumanization of chattel slavery.

Most of the subjects are elderly and worn. Lines, crevasses and creases traverse their faces, showing the strains and challenges of a life of oppression. They also show resolve, character and endurance.

With a few exceptions, former slaves interviewed for the federal Work Progress Administration (WPA) slave narrative project in the 1930s are featured in the paintings. The goal of the WPA project was to preserve the histories of former slaves. The compilation is called “Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States of America.” But in doing so, the WPA relied on mostly white, southern writers to interview former slaves in an environment of intimidation, violence and fear, painting an inaccurately positive picture of slavery, historians say.

This project seeks to foster conversations about the real legacy of slavery while offering a dignified look at some of the people who endured it.

Each painting is available as an 11X14 canvas prints for $105 plus tax and shipping. Prints may be ordered directly by contacting me here.

Gallery

Emma Crockett – oil on hardboard, 12X16. Betty Bormer – oil on canvas, 12X16. Lizzie Hill – oil on hardboard, 16X20. Charity Anderson – oil on hardboard, 18X24. Shadrack White – oil on hardboard, 16X20. Allen Brown – oil on hardboard, 20X24. Josh Tarbutton – oil on hardboard, 16X20. Liverpool Hazard - oil on canvas, 18X24. Mandy Hadnot – oil on linen, 18X24. Cudjo (Cudjoe) Kazoola Lewis – oil on linen, 16X20. Wes Brady – oil on canvas, 16X20. Spence Johnson - oil on linen, 16X20. Mary Brice – oil on canvas, 16X20. Adora Rienshaw – oil on linen, 16X20. Mr. X  - oil on canvas, 16X20. Lewis Hicks – oil on hardboard, 16X20.

Unstolen Dignity featured for Black History Month