History Exposed

Aristotle

Ink on paper

9 x 12 inches

2020

Aristotle

One of Aristotle’s theories was that the Greeks were superior to all non-Greek. That they should be the slave owners versus the slaves themselves. He had many underlying philosophies as well in regard to slaves that he recorded in a series of documented works, The Politics. [1]When I first came across the mention of Aristotle’s ideas, I was reading Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. My foundational knowledge ordering Aristotle before other historical figures; I wanted to learn more about his philosophies in regard to slavery. I am still reading further about his philosophies, but so far this is a summary of what I have found. Aristotle was the foundational figure for some Puritan ideology and the focus of a superior race and religion was one. Adopting from Aristotle’s Greek superiority, the Puritans adopted their superiority to anyone of a different culture or religion than theirs. Between 384-322 BCE, Aristotle labeled Africans in the Greek, “Ethiopians,” which literally translates to “burnt faces.” [2]  His theory was that the climate made Greeks superior physically and intellectually to anyone from other regions. The Greeks were the slave-holding masters where barbarians were only there to obey. The “Natural Slave,” as he so classifies in A Treatise on Government From another source however, I found contradiction in Aristotle’s actions. In his will, Aristotle wished his slaves to all be freed.[3] Whether this happened or not, I have not found a source yet citing this, but it may be out there and as I said previously, I am still researching. I am merely reflecting on what I have gathered so far.

I find this approach very important to my current art making, as an artist and a historian I have found I best reflect on materials by research, written reflections, and illustration. So, I give you a portrait of a bust of Aristotle.

[1] Ellis, William, M.A., Aristotle,  A Treatise on Government (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1888), 10-21, 33, 34, 87, 89,  91, 233.

[2] Kendi, Ibram X., Stamped from the Beginning (New York: Bold Type Books, 2017), 17, 18.

[3] Smith, Nicholas D., “Aristotle’s Theory of Natural Slavery,” Pheonix 37, no 2 (1983): Accessed July 20, 2020. Doi: 10.2307/1087451.

Gordon

ink on paper

9 x 12 inches

2020

Gordon

Photograph from Harper's Weekly, a New York newspaper circa Civil War. Scans of the newspaper can be found here

Dishonest Abe

Ink on paper

9 x 12 inches

2020

Dishonest Abe

Lincoln is commonly portrayed as a savior to Africans/African Americans, advocating for anti-slavery movements. He classified slavery as immoral and damaging to the economy. However, he did not believe in equality amongst the races. Lincoln would quote the American phrase, "all men are created equal," as a ploy to sway abolitionist to support his political party. And he greatly succeeded after the Emancipation Proclamation, however Lincoln was not a true abolitionist. An abolitionist by definition is an individual who supports the freeing of slaves as well as creating equality amongst all races political and social. After his opponent, Stephen Douglas called Lincoln a "negro lover[1]," Lincoln made an announcement at a debate in 1858 clear that he was not an abolitionist. "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races[2]." He did believe Africans in society deserved to be rewarded for their labor as any white individual would, through payments. As he grew older, he did eventually argue for African Suffrage, but only for veterans of the Union Army.

Lincoln also did not want Africans to stay part of American society in the mainland America. On several occasions he was found to support colonization and to use Africans as the tool to colonize. "...Free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia (Lincoln, 1854)." Throughout the years he continued his goal of colonization by organizing meetings with freed Africans/African Americans to discuss further, stating it would be better they remain separated.

This angered abolitionist and black leaders, so in later years Lincoln never mentioned colonization again nor did it remain part of the Emancipation Proclamation[3].

There is so much overlooked in American history, it's no wonder that this country keeps screwing up and is going downhill. History is a vital part of learning for the future, how can we learn for the future if our public education system lacks the needed material. That is NOT a dig to the educators themselves, it is however a point on the standard curriculum. A change needs to happen for educational policies and curriculum, soon!

This is also not a statement of support for Confederate memorials. They should immediately be removed or replaced with a image recognizing the strife the Confederates inflicted upon their black and native communities. Never in written history has a statue been the key indicator of what happened in history. No wonder people think Americans are lazy. Read a book or look it up. These statues are unnecessary and cruel to the memory of those oppressed by confederates

 

[1] Striner, Richard, Lincoln and Race (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 2012) 20.

[2] Lincoln, Abraham. “The Lincoln-Douglas Debates 4th Debate Part I “ Speech, Alton, IL 18 September 1858. https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/the-lincoln-douglas-debates-4th-debate-part-i/

[3] Pruitt, Sarah, “5 Things You May Not Know About Abraham Lincoln, Slavery and Emancipation,” History, A Maven Channel, 23 June 2020 accessed 6 July 2020. https://www.history.com/news/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-lincoln-slavery-and-emancipation#:~:text=Lincoln%20first%20publicly%20advocated%20for,American%20Colonization%20Society%20in%201821).

Saartjie Baartman

In 1789 near the Gamtoos River (Eastern Cape), South Africa, Saartjie Baartman was born to a Gonaquasub group of the Khoikhoi peoples. She grew up on a farm, most likely working as a servant alongside her family. Both her parents died when she was very young. She briefly married as a teenager; However, her husband was murdered by Dutch colonists when she was 16 years old. Following these events, she was sold to Pieter Willem Cezar. She was tricked into signing a contract with Cezar’s brother and was then taken to England and Ireland where she worked as a domestic servant. In addition to her domestic servitude, she was exhibited as part of human zoo’s.[1] They called her the “Hottentot Venus,” for her large buttocks and genitalia[2]. She was told after 5 years she could return to South Africa, however she would never return. After years in Great Britain, she was sold to a Frenchman, S. Reaux and exhibited throughout Paris. During this time, Reaux prostituted her to wealthy patrons. She died between the ages of 25-26 in 1815 due to “unknown causes,” most likely linked to her sexual abuse. Even after death, her body parts were exhibited at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. Her brain and genitals were removed and placed in preservative and her body was cast by one of Napoleon’s surgeons, George Cuvier. In 1976, her remains were removed from display. Nelson Mandella filed a formal request in 1994 for Baartman to be returned to South Africa and it was not until March of 2002 that her remains were returned and buried in the Eastern Cape Province. [3]

 

There is so much more information to learn about Saartjie Baartman and the Khosian people. I do not pretend to know a lot about this topic, because I do not know. I did not know who Saartjie Baartman was until I read about her in Stomped from the Beginning. There are several things that her story has definitely given me insight on: these events are still very recent, and society today has definitely shown some greater influence from her as a public figure. If you type “Saartjie Baartman,” into a search engine you may come across a comparison photo of this image alongside the image of Kim Kardashian from the Winter 2014 edition of Paper. Many who are in denial about racism will claim, “that was such a long time ago,” or “You’d think by now we would have things worked out.” These events in perspective to the timeline of human history, were not that long ago. Once we accept that, only then will justice be easily attainable for those repressed for so much of human history. In the timeline I have explored so far, the hypersexualization of Africans dates back to hundreds of years. This characterization was used as a scapegoat for white men to rape their slaves during the pre- and post-civil war eras. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that a southern white man was finally convicted of rape and sexual assault. The combination of men sexualizing Saartjie Baartman for her shape and the presiding stereotypes of Black women influenced imagery of Black women all throughout the 19th, 20th and I would argue the 21st centuries.

 

[1] Howard, Mikelle, “(Sara) Saartjie Baartman (1789-1815).” Black Past (2018): Accessed 26 July 2020 https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/baartman-sara-saartjie-1789-1815/

[2] Parkinson, Justin, “The Significance of Sarah Baartman,” BBC News (2016): Accessed 26 July 2020 https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35240987

[3] “Coming Home,” The Guardian (2002): Accessed 26 July 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/education/2002/feb/21/internationaleducationnews.highereducation

Saartjie Baartman

Ink on paper

9 x 12 inches

2020

©2018 by Mackenzie Madison