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Essay on Slavery in America Art

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What caused the Civil War? The actual cause will forever be debated, but ultimately the Civil War surrounded the legality of slavery in America. Everyone knows that Abraham Lincoln ended the ability to legally own slaves, therefore freeing slaves. Before Abraham Lincoln ended slavery, many slaves found freedom for themselves by running away to the northern states where slavery was illegal. Eastman Johnson, an American painter of the nineteenth century, depicts an African-American family fleeing slavery during the Civil War in his oil-painting titled A Ride to Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves.
A Ride to Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves was painted by Eastman Johnson in 1862. Johnson was accompanying Union General George McClellan to Manassas, Virginia from Washington D. C. This painting is a representation of a true event that Johnson witnessed near the Manassas, Virginia, battlefield on March 2, 1862. It is known that the account was seen by Eastman Johnson because he inscribed the back of one of the three paintings of this event. The painting with the inscription is currently at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The inscription reads “A veritable incident in the civil war seen by myself at Centerville on this morning of McClellan’s advance towards Manassas March 2, 1862 Eastman Johnson”. The Brooklyn Museum has one of the other of these paintings that only has Eastman Johnson’s initials on the back. The location of the third painting is unknown.
The African-American family in this painting is seen fleeing slavery on horseback. The father is centered between the small boy and the mother. The boy sits in front of his father holding on tightly to the mane of the horse. The mother sits behind her husband holding on to him with one arm and ...


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...y one of the many African-American families who chose to seek out freedom for themselves rather than wait around to be rescued.



Works Cited

Harvey, Eleanor. The Civil War and American Art: A Ride for Liberty?. Eye Level: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 21 February 2013. Web. 30 October 2013.
Hills, Patricia. Johnson, Eastman. American National Biography Online. February 2000. Web. 30 October 2013.
Johnson, Eastman. A Ride for Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves. 1862. Oil on Board. Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn. Web. 30 October 2013.
Mestan, Scott, and Dr. Bryan Zygmont. Eastman Johnson, A Ride for Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves. Smart History. Khan Academy. n.d. Web. 30 October 2013.
Ray, Donna Thompson. Eastman Johnson, A Ride for Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves, c. 1862. Picturing U.S. History. The Graduate Center, City University of New York. n.d. Web. 30 October 2013.



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