Art of the Month

There was a time on the African continent when people lived everyday lives. People formed families and had children. They worked and bought things. The Slave Trade disrupted this life and created a new history for those who were caught up in it. This month’s artwork will reflect on the impact of that history with a quilt that has many patchworks.

Each week more information will be added.

The Slave Trade began when the first African captives were sold to Europe in 1444. During the 16th to the 18th Century more than 12 million people were shipped to the Americas. Not only did greedy African aristocracy line their pockets with the sale of people, but they also depleted their own resources so that when Europeans came to conquer them later, they had no fighting forces.

Hattie McDaniel was an actress and comedian who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African American to win an Oscar. She portrayed the role of a slave during the Civil War in Gone With The Wind. She was born in 1893. She died in 1952.

Barak Hussein Obama served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, was born in 1961 in Hawaii. He also served as a Senator from the State of Illinois.

Cotton is a soft fiber that after processing can be spun into textiles. This shrub began to change the world in 1660 when the English East India Company began selling pieces of cloth which caught on. At first the cloth was imported from India, but the Europeans discovered they could grow and process their own cotton in North and South America. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, it allowed for greater production of cotton in North America and around the world.

Masks were created by skilled workers in tribes which was usually passed the job down by generations. So if a man was a wood carver, his sons would be wood carvers.  These objects told the history of the tribe and what was important to them.

Jim Crow Laws were state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation with usually inferior standards for people of color

Bert Williams was a Bahamian-born American entertainer born in 1874, one of best entertainers of the Vaudeville and the most popular comedian for all audiences of his time. He is credited as being the first Black man to have the leading role in a film: Darktown Jubilee in 1914.  He also starred on Broadway in a leading role, but his character was in blackface. He died in 1922

Rice was grown in West Africa in a way that would change the economies of Brazil and South Carolina. Europeans would take natives from Africa and increase the crops of rice in North and South America.

Tignon Law was a 1786 law enacted by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana Don Estevan Miró that forced black women to wear a tignon headscarf on their head so that they show visibly they belong to a slave class whether they were slaves or not. In defiance these women wore elaborate fabrics and jewels continuing to be beautiful. (

Frederick Douglass became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, with his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. He was born in slavery in 1818 in Maryland. He was taught to read by one of his masters. Douglass taught other slaves to read.  A few years later, he escaped to freedom and began working as an abolitionist and preacher in 1838 and changed his last name to Douglass. He traveled abroad to teach on the ills of slavery, supported women’s rights and understood the importance of the image of the African American man. It is rumored that he had his portrait made every year to reinforce his ideas of a man. He died in 1895. (

Josephine Baker was an American-born French entertainer, French Resistance agent, and civil rights activist. She was born in St Louis Missouri in 1906 into a life of struggle. She began working at an early age, waiting tables at 13. She toured with the Jones Family Band and the Dixie Steppers in 1919. She eventually landed a role as a dancer and stole the show. She became a star in France, but was rejected as a performer in the United States. During World War II she performed for the troops and was a worked undercover for the French Resistance. In the 1950s and 60s she did significant for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and even performed at Carnegie Hall. She died in 1975 after a performance at the Bobino Theater in Paris that included a medley of her routines from over 50 years. (

Kongo Cross in 1491 the king of the Kongo converted to the Portuguese version of Catholicism and renamed himself Joao I. The cross became a symbol the Africans would carry with them to the Americas during slavery. Its design would show up in common objects like musical instruments and eating utensils. It would represent the moments of life and death since many Africans were facing those moments during the slave trade. Not everyone in the Kongo was happy with this new religion, and it did cause division, because it was prohibited polygamy. The kingdom used marriage as a way to build alliances, but this new religion stopped that in its tracks.  But over the centuries, Kongo’s Catholicism developed a hybrid model which gave “the ability of Kongo artisans to create crosses an art that met a Kongo aesthetic ensured the longevity of Kongo worldviews.” (Toby Green, A Fistful of Shells, 205-213)

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