Sunday, November 25, 2012

Waiting 'til the Midnight Hour

This image from the Library of Congress shows slaves gathered in a quarter cabin and watching a pocket timepiece as the minutes creep toward January 1, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was to go into effect.

Surroundings and individuals depicted here are quite interesting. As a banjo hangs from the wall, a slave with a runaway neck collar and spikes holds a torch which illuminates the emotional scene. Many of the slaves shown are women who are either holding children or praying, or both. One slave stands by the door holding an American flag and apparently keeping those outside the cabin apprised of the time. Two individuals cover their faces apparently overcome with emotion, and one is shown prostrate on the floor as if in supplication.  Ages range from the old man with the watch in the center to the infants held by their mothers. Complexions, too, vary from the very dark woman by the door to the seemingly white woman in the left foreground. The table over which the old time keeper stands is made from a Sanitary Commission box and there appears to be an open book of some type on top of it.

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