Monday, August 19, 2019

FORGOTTEN SOLDIER: African Americans in the Revolutionary War: Review By Polly Guerin

Forgotten Soldier' exhibition is a cautionary tale of duplicity, a time of patriotism and a time when enslaved and free African Americans fought on both sides of the Revolutionary War. They had the opportunity to join either the American or the British fighting forces and were lured by the promise of obtaining their freedom at the end of the war.  It was a promise that lured hundreds of men like Bristol Rhodes, an enslaved man to join the Rhode Island Regiment, fought at the Siege of Yorktown in October 1781 and many others who are now given their due recognition and respect for their bravery. Their story is now told with rare documents and artifacts on display, lectures and interpretive demonstrations with re-enactors from African American military regiments.          
Portrait by John Trumbull, circa 1797
FORGOTTEN SOLDIER' at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Virginia through 
March 22, 2020 presents the compelling stories of  some of the thousands of African Americans who took part as soldiers in the Continental Army. They fought in George Washington's army for the American cause for a free and independent nation. Men like Crispus Attucks, a sailor, a fugitive from slavery who was the wars first casualty at the Boston Massacre, and later considered "the First Martyr of Liberty,"  While FREEDOM was to be their reward history recounts that after the war George Washington wanted enslaved people to be returned to their owners and sadly the enslavers came looking for their property.
       Then, too, no less significant are the stories of those African Americans who made the risky choice to join nearby British units with the promise of obtaining their own freedom. The exhibition features Dunmore's Proclamation of 1775 on loan from the Library of  Congress. Virginia's royal governor, Lord Dunmore, promised freedom to all enslaved African Americans owned by rebelling Patriots, if they would serve and bear arms with Loyalty to Britain. FREEDOM was at the core of their urge to serve.  What motivated hundreds of enslaved men to leave their life of servitude? You must remember that before the Revolution few enslaved African Americans could ever escape bondage. Yet,  with the promise of becoming Free Men the enslaved African Americans fought bravely with the Continental Army. What's even more disturbing is the fact that at the wars end their former owners tried to enslave these men again, but not everyone. Image: Lieutenant Thomas Grosvenor and his Negro servant by John Trumbull, ca. 1797. In this oil-painting, Asaba and his owner, Lt. Thomas Grosvenor of Pomfret, Connecticut, look at the fallen hero, Dr. Joseph Warren, killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. Asaba survived this battle and was freed by Grosvenor after the war. Painting on loan from Yale University Art Gallery, Mabel Brady Garvan Collection. 
         
Inspection Roll and Book of Negroes
REUNITED FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1783 ARE RARE DOCUMENTS:
The "Inspection Roll of Negroes Book No. 1," on loan from the U.S. National Archives in Washington, DC, and the "Book of Negroes," on loan from the National Archives of the United Kingdom. The Americans and the British created these documents to partially satisfy a requirement of Article 7 of the Treaty of Paris, also on loan from the United States National Archives for the exhibition. These ledgers record the names of approximately 3,000 African American men, women and children who  escaped to British lines during the war in hopes of obtaining their freedom. An interactive in the exhibit offers an in-depth exploration of

of the "Inspection Roll of Negroes Book, No. 1" from the United States National Archives.
          The exhibits interactive and hands on experiences also include Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness where an interactive wheel shows the choices that many African Americans made in the hope for freedom. By turning the wheel visitors can find out what actually happened to people who made the same choice and learn about their stories. Then, too, there is "Hidden in Plain Sight, the story of James Lafayette who served as a Patriot spy and relayed messages to George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. 
        Of special note is the original work by Titus Kaphar, an American contemporary artist whose
riveting three-dimensional sculpture invites visitors to "shift their gaze" or look at history in a new light to contemplate the Forgotten Soldier often overlooked in historical accounts.
        The AMERICAN REVOLUTION MUSEUM at Yorktown is located at 200 Water Street, parking is free. Visit www.historyisfun.org/forgotten-soldier. Visitors can connect with more stories of African Americans in the Revolution and their wartime experiences by also exploring the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown PERMANENT GALLERY EXHIBITS where senior curator Sarah Meschutt said, "Even the average African American today does not know the story about the participation of African Americans in the Revolutionary War.  In addition to bearing arms their manual labor dug the trenches, they served as musicians, cooks, and in various other capacities. Ms. Meschutt further stated that "Without the participation of African Americans it would have been difficult to win the war." The exhibits in the Permanent Gallery uncovers the lives of Peter Salem, Billy Flora and Billy Lee to name just a few of the men who labored as enslaved men on the docks and in searing hot smelting furnaces.    Martha Katz-Hyman, assistant curator, proudly pointed out two rare items, the Marquis de Lafayette's pistols and references to other notable patriots including Sylas Deane, a Connecticut merchant who figures importantly in convincing the French to support the American Revolution, but that, too, is another worthy story.    
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Forgotten Soldier burns into our collective memory to never forget even our brave soldiers who today are protecting our Freedom.  Please send fan mail and your story to  pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit www.pollytalk.com and click in the left-hand column to links to
Polly's other Blogs.                           
        

Monday, August 12, 2019

TENACITY: Women in Jamestown, Virginia: Feature By Polly Guerin

TENACITY, Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia at Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th Century Virginia history and culture, explores little known, captivating personal stories of real women in Jamestown colony and their tenacious spirit and impact on a fledgling society.   

What could have possessed women like Ann Jackson, Anne Burras, Allice Burges, Ann Tanner, Mary Moore, Jane Hill and many other English women to embark on a journey across perilous seas to start a new life in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World? Among them were widows, spinsters, orphans and servant girls, many just teenagers who  sought a better life and adventure. They were lured by the Virginia Company of London, dear readers, with the only honorable profession of their time--the prospect of marriage. 
      The Virginia Company of London sent the first English settlers to Virginia in 1607 they did not include women intentionally, keeping their potentially distracting "fairer sex" home in England.  However, the first women to arrive in Jamestown in 1608 were Anne Burras, age 14 who was the maidservant to Mistress Forrest, the wife of colonist Thomas Forrest. Her mistress died soon afterward  and Anne married John Laydon in the first recorded English marriage in Virginia. Ann's tenacity and resilience insured her survival through relentless troubles including deadly winter of 1609-10, which took the lives of 75 percent of the colonists. Later during Martial Law she survived a severe whipping and later that night lost her unborn child. Go to the exhibit and find
out why so cruel a punishment was decreed.  
      The London Company soon realized that a settlement of men would not thrive without wives and ensuing families. So in order to improve upon the situation, and support their interest in profit, in 1619 the company began a campaign to recruit wives for the Virginia colonists.                   Women's roles in early Virginia were rarely recorded but this exhibit features the names and the personal stories of many of these tenacious women who were lured by incentives that might improve their status in life.  The exhibit gives us the opportunity to share their stories and to give these women a voice and rightful place in history
      Dr. Beverly Straube, Curator of the 17th Century galleries who played a major role in planning the exhibit said, "Our team of five tenacious women got passionate about bringing the women's stories to light."   As for incentives that motivated women to journey to the New World, Dr. Straube pointed out that these women of modest means were offered several incentives saying, "Women received perfumed lambskin gloves, a luxury at that time, and practical items such as clothing and bedding." Unaware of the danger and hardship that awaited them these pioneering women were tenacious, determined and persistent travelers.  ANN JACKSON: Perhaps full of hope and optimism for a new life in Virginia, took it upon herself to leave her father William's  
Ferrar Papers Interactive Screen
house in London and boarded the Marmaduke as one of 56 skilled and respectable women who sailed in 1621. Ann Survived the Atlantic crossing arriving in Jamestown only to have her dream of finding a husband was dashed when in March 1622 the Powathan Indians captured her and 18 other women during an attack on the settlement. Her riveting story of survival and return to England is among many other accounts of hardship and unrequited love. 
     INTERACTIVE DISPLAYS: Among the artifacts on display is the Ferrar Papers, circa 1621. a key source of information about English women who arrived in Virginia in 1621 and 1622. Compiled by a London merchant Nicholas Ferrar, The Ferrar Papers include business documents of many of he 56 women recruited to go to Virginia in 1621, to become wives of he settlers. A touch screen interactive display near the original documents allows visitors to learn more about these early English women. Other interactive Displays throughout the exhibit shed light on many other women including Angelo.
    ANGELO'S STORY: Then, too, there was a woman of a different color. When Angelo stepped off the ship Treasurer she saw no one who looked like her. As one of the first Africans in the colony, she arrived in 1619 as an enslaved woman from the Portuguese colony of Angola in West Central Africa.  To add to the drama of her life in Virginia. English officials traded suppliers forAngelo. It is further revealed from period documents that by 1625 she worked for planter William Peirce and his wife Joane on their property in Jamestown. Look for two rare documents related to Angelo on loan for the first time in America from the National Archives of the United Kingdom.
       
Naming the Women Step by Step up the Staircase
LEGACY WALL: Add your own Tenacity to the exhibit. An interactive "Legacy Wall" allows visitors to explore the stories of women from 1607 to the present with a touch a screen, as well as share their own stories of tenacious women in history and their own lives. Image Left: Although you can take an elevator instead look for the staircase that leads up to the TENACITY exhibit where the names of these courageous women are listed, step by step, including Temperance Flowerdew Barrow Yeardley West who stepped off a ship in 1609 in Virginia in the midst of a harsh, starvation-fraught winter. Yet tenacious 
Temperance survived.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! This new exhibit TENACITY runs through to January 5, 2020. For information about Tenacity and related programs, visit historyisfun.org/tenacity and americanrevolution2019.com. Administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. 
   

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Tom Christopher at Molly Barnes Art Salon: Review By Polly Guerin

Tom Christopher at the Brill Building with Window Onlooker
To the art world cognoscenti Molly Barnes' art history lectures at her Friday Brown Bag luncheon salon has introduced some of the country's celebrated emerging artists and others who have acquired international reputations like, Tom Christopher who shared his paintings and views on art last Friday at the host location, The Roger Smith Hotel in New York City. 
        Known for his impressionist urban paintings and murals, mostly of New York City, Christopher said "The energy of New York City caught me up in a love affair with the dynamic flow of the city." He advised "Paint from your heart and with no concern about pleasing anyone. Do not follow trends, do it because you are inspired." Fashion Institute of Technology, Associate Professor, Advertising Design Thomas McManus, School of Art and Design who also has worked with Christopher on special projects added, "Don't do whats being done, do something different and be patient. When Picasso came out with Cubism nothing sold until 8 years later."
       
Tom Christopher's Bicycle City
The unnamed large-scale painting on exhibit conveyed Christopher's unique take on the cacophony of a congested city 
street through dynamic pulsating acrylic red paint bursting out of the images like the energy of the city. Then, too, the golden sun drenched  light illuminating other figures in a cluster mingling looks like a person on a motorcycle and others hustling in the blaring traffic. One unpainted area reveals the white canvas and draws the eye deeper into the painting.
       POLLY OBSERVES: As a regular attendee at Molly's art salon I am always thrilled to sit among the artists who ask questions, "How do you get your ideas?"  Christopher sent around his note book in which his rough sketches depict real New Yorkers---street people, bicycle messengers, cars, pedestrians, just plain characters who might become subjects in a painting.  Sometimes he uses a camera to record scenes.     
Tom Christopher's painting suggests NYC's Hustling Masses
MOLLY BARNES The lectures are part art history and advice on how to make it in the art world. That's something 
that the dynamic Molly Barnes tells her students at the Otis College of Art and Design where she created a course for artists on how to make it in the art world, including how to look prosperous, For men "Wear new classic shoes. For Women carry a designer handbag."  Then, too, other serious concerns are on the agenda like mingle at gallery openings, promote and publicize yourself with etiquette and decorum. Her Molly Barnes Gallery is located in West Hollywood, California and she has generously launched many art careers.  If you are interested in attending one of Molly's Brown Bag free lectures, usually held from noon to 1 p.m. at The Roger Smith Hotel, located at Madison and 47th Street, make a reservation: Call 212 255 7100. The
art lectures start up again in October.
      Ta Ta Darlings! I never miss a Molly Barnes Brown Bag Lectures that are not only a art
salon experience but also an art history lecture and a splendid networking opportunity for
everyone, especially, of course, artists.  Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit
Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com on visionary men, women determined to succeed, beauty
and even, poetry.