New York-based painter Thomas Waterman Wood was known for painting genre scenes (or images that tell a story) of African Americans. Wood spent time in Nashville and Louisville. There he saw the Civil War’s social and political effects on the South, and portrayed former slaves in ways that familiarized the subject for northern white audiences. Some of his better-known images show freed men directly involved with the democratic process, casting their votes for the first time and celebrating over elections. This image may appear sentimental today, but it was a radical attempt to humanize a newly freed population.


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