The Evolution of Slavery in the Americas

This gallery is a representation of how the African slave trade began, developed and ended in the Americas.  It also demonstrates how styles of art evolved over the time period.  The first piece is unlike any other in the gallery.  It depicts a friendship and understanding between slave and owner.  The grass hut in the rear indicates a Caribbean setting, the root of the slave trade.  That is the only indication that the African man in the painting is a slave at all.  This man is not being ill-treated.  He is well-adorned with jewelry, is being educated, and looks with admiration and love upon his owner.  The mood quickly changes.  The piece titled "Slave Auction" focuses on two figures.  One is a man with a terrified look on his face as he is being sold.  The others is a woman holding her child in sorrow.  This piece does not romanticize anything.  It shows the distress of a people, but the rest of the piece is a blur.  It does not focus on who is to blame, but instead simply shows distress.  The root of the distress is overlooked.  "Man Struggling with Boa Constrictor" is a piece which some may not even relate to slavery.  But it is very symbolic of a people being crushed under the weight of oppression.  The boa is very opaque, as if to say the snake isn't really even there.  The background is very nondescript.  The focus is entirely on the man, who is struggling to fight back, but clearly losing.  "The Hunted Slave" represents a turning point.  Action is being taken by the oppressed, and things have turned violent.  The man wielding an ax above his head, despite being in a defensive situation, is on the offensive.  He is no longer running, but taking a stand.  The artist here uses proportion to show just how formidable the opponent is.  The dogs are massive and greater in number.  Finally we see an attempt at solution in "The Underground Railroad."  We see a people working together, despite the harsh conditions.  We still see exhaustion and some distress, but there is a sense of hope.  It is snowy in the distance, but things are clearing off and a warm light enters from the side.  We begin to see a little more realism in this painting.  These people are not posing, nor are they glorified in any way.  Shortly afterward, there is freedom.  "The Freedman" depicts a man pondering his newly found freedom.  He is shirtless and still has chains on his right wrist, but he is free.  His eyes are raised upward and his body is poised as if unsure whether to rise or stay.  Where he will go next is a mystery, for all he has ever known is now behind him.  The final piece is more modern, and simply depicts a woman in loose bondage.  "Lord, Am Tired" suggests that the weight of oppression has not completely disappeared.  Though the chains are gone, the ropes are not.  Sadness overcomes the woman.  This piece lacks color of any sort.  It is black and white; simple, yet more complicated.  There is much left to interpretation, but it is clear that even now progress is to be made.

Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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