The Burial Party By John Reekie Essay

The Burial Party By John Reekie Essay

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There are many different ways in which the war was represented to the public, including drawings, newspaper articles, and detailed stereographs. Stereographs such as John Reekie’s “The Burial Party” invoked mixed feelings from all of those who viewed it. It confronts the deaths caused by the Civil War as well as touches upon the controversial issue over what would happen to the slaves once they had been emancipated. This picture represents the Civil War as a trade-off of lives- fallen soldiers gave their lives so that enslaved black men and women could be given back their own, even if that life wasn’t that different from slavery. In his carefully constructed stereograph “The Burial Party,” John Reekie confronts the uncertainty behind the newly claimed freedom of black men through his intentional placement of the men in a scenario reminiscent of slave labor. The result is an emphasis on the fears held by society regarding what role the black population would play in society upon emancipation
This stereograph was taken in April 1865, just around the time that the Civil War was finally coming to its end and the Confederacy was preparing to surrender, in order to confront the uncertainty that plagued the minds of all the people whose lives were not claimed in battle. At the beginning of the year 1865, just months before this picture was taken, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed by Congress to legally abolish slavery within the United States. However, the fact that these men are located in the southern state of Virginia, still hard at work in fields, implies that not much has changed for their status as slaves. The men pictured are given the difficult job of burying the numerous bodies of Union soldiers who perished in the battles at...


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...his argument is shown through the picture- even though the men are free, they are still performing the hard work that has been conditioned into them since they were children. The white men of the South clearly neglected the work of burying the dead bodies until there were black men available to perform the task instead, showing the South’s obvious need for the black population’s work ethic.
The image of “A Burial Party” touches upon multiple issues that were on the minds of many people in 1865. It confronted the contingency people were facing about what black people would do with their new freedom and how they would make their place in both society and the economy. For freed slaves, the image provides a look at the men who had fought and died for them and makes them wonder if there are men who will continue to do so after the physical fighting had come to its close.

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