WELCOME to the “Hermon A. MacNeil” — Virtual Gallery & Museum !

~ This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil,  of the Beaux Arts School American classic sculptor of Native images and American history.  ~ World’s Fairs, statues, monuments, coins, and more… ~ Hot-links ( lower right) lead to works by Hermon A. MacNeil.   ~ Over 200 of stories & 2,000 photos form this virtual MacNeil Gallery stretching east to west  New York to New Mexico ~ Oregon to S. Carolina.   ~ 2021 marks the 155th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth. ~~Do you WALK or DRIVE by MacNeil sculptures DAILY!   ~~ CHECK it OUT!

DO YOU walk by MacNeil Statues and NOT KNOW IT ???

Search Results for "confederate"

b5289af0-1847-11e5-b170-9d0f9ec45daa_CICJzhhWsAE1Dj_Down the street from The Mother Emmanuel AME Church where nine members were massacred this week while worshiping God in prayer and Bible study stands the Confederate Defenders monument sculpted by Hermon MacNeil.  The memorial was defaced with spray paint on Sunday.   

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/06/21/21/29D7C09E00000578-3133597-Confederate_monument_vandalized-a-58_1434918039434.jpg

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/06/21/21/29D7C09E00000578-3133597-Confederate_monument_vandalized-a-58_1434918039434.jpg

Hermon A. MacNeil’s only Confederate monument stands on Battery Point on Charleston Harbor facing out to Fort Sumter 3 1/2 miles away where the first shots of the Civil War was fired .  The monument was commissioned for this site in 1932 by The United Daughters of the Confederacy.  It has stood for 83 years.  

MacNeil’s design was chosen by a local monument committee over all other entries.  The allegorical piece depicts the Youth of defenders and the Maternal figure of culture.  The shield contains the Seal of the State of South Carolina (the first to succeed from the Union).

Succession Gala:   For my own comments on a previous Confederate Celebration and remembrance see this post on this website: “MacNeil Statue will not attend Secession Gala” By (https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2010/12/12/macneil-statue-will-not-attend-secession-gala/)

 It is unlike any other Civil War Monuments that Hermon MacNeil created.  SEE the following links:

  1. Whitinsville, Massachusetts ( 1905 Monument to Soldiers & Sailors of the Civil War~ Whitinsville, Massachusetts );
  2. Albany, NY ( 1912 Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Albany,NY );
  3. Philadelphia Pennsylvania ( 1927 Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument ~ Philadelphia, PA );

A June 21st report by Melissa Boughton of The Post and Courrier gives the following details:

The damage was reported to police dispatchers just after 12:30 p.m. The statue was covered up by residents who wrapped a large tarp around it about 1:30 p.m.

Two signs were placed on the tarp after the graffiti was covered up. One said, “All lives matter #charlestonunited,” and the other said, “Take down racist statues.”

The incident occurred in the wake of the fatal shooting Wednesday of nine black people inside Emanuel AME Church in what police say was an attack by a white supremacist. The church held its first service since the shootings on Sunday.

The attack has led to a nationwide call for South Carolina to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. At least 1,000 people gathered Saturday in Columbia to call for the flag to be taken down. Numerous petitions also call for the flag’s removal.  ( http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150621/PC16/150629854/confederate-monument-a-focus-of-debate-after-graffiti-appears )

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Xavier Rosado and Tighe Berry argue about graffiti discovered, and later covered up, on a Confederate statue downtown near The Battery. http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150621/PC16/150629854/confederate-monument-a-focus-of-debate-after-graffiti-appears

FOR MORE HISTORY on this work by HERMON MACNEIL see the following:

https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/statue-honoring-confederacy-defaced-charleston-park-article-1.2266043

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A photograph of the Confederate Defenders of Charleston sculpture autographed by Hermon A. MacNeil has been purchased from the on-line inventory of Steven L. Roskins, a dealer in historic autographs in Venice, Florida. The statue, dedicated on October 20, 1932 is Located in the White Point Gardens overlooking Charleston Harbor. The statue faces toward the Ft Sumter National Park located at the mouth of Charleston Harbor about 3 1/2 miles east southeast of the MacNeil statue and White Point Gardens.  The Fort was the  site of the opening battle of the American Civil War on April 12-13, 1861.

Signed Photograph, “To Charles C. Curran – The Wise War Horse in Art. H.A. MacNeil, S.C.” 7 ½” x 10”,

The photograph is inscribed to noted American artist Charles C. Curran. He and MacNeil were Jurors in numerous art expositions through the years. Acclaimed as an painter, Curran is saluted here by MacNeil with this visual image of his own Confederate Memorial sculpture.

The photo appears to be taken in a studio (probably MacNeil’s in College Point on Long Island, New York). The backdrop is a draping. The little sentry soldier propped up at the base left seems a curious addition.  Perhaps, it has some special meaning between MacNeil and Curran.  We do not know.  We do know that the little sleeping sentry is not part of the monument after installation in Charleston. The transport of the entire bronze piece and marble base to Charleston, SC and its subsequent installation White Point Gardens represents a monumental task as well. (See Google Map link below)

The autographed inscription at the photo bottom reads, “To Charles C. Curran – The Wise War Horse in Art. ~ H.A. MacNeil, S.C.” The photo reverse (not shown) bears MacNeil’s further handwritten notation and second signature, “Study. Defensive Monument, Sumter Park, Charleston, S.C. H.A. MacNeil, S.C. 1931.” At the center of the back is a stamped mark, “The Capitol Photo Studios, 617 – 2nd Avenue, College Point, L[ong] I[sland].”

For another unusual photo of the Statue installed at in South Carolina go to Confederate Defenders Statue – Battery Park

Visit this Sculpture by Hermon A. MacNeil

[mappress]

Flat Abby and Grandmother Starmer visit the H. A. MacNeil statue in Battery park, Charleston, South Carolina in 2004.

This interesting photo of a MacNeil sculpture surfaced in a recent internet search.  Grandmother Starmer and her little friend ‘Flat Abby’ are pictured visiting MacNeil’s “Confererate Defenders of Charleston” monument.  No photo of  this sculpture has been previously posted on this website.  Located in Charleston, South Carolina, this statue was completed in 1931 and dedicated in October 1932.  At that time surviving Civil War Veterans would have been over 80 years of age.  The location at White Point Gardens and the Battery was first used as a public garden in 1837. With the outbreak of the Civil War, it became a fortification for the city, a Battery. Today, you will also find an impressive display of weaponry used to shell and defend the city.

On a more light hearted note, We have the statue pictured with “Flat Abby” some 143 years later.  According to Grandmother’s blog, “Flat Abby arrived in Charleston, SC to visit us, Grandmother and Grandfather Starmer, in late October 2004, just in time for Halloween.” The posting, they tell me, was a ‘fun project’ done six years ago for their granddaughter, Abby.  The blog  continues with a historical tour of Beauregard House, antebellum home of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and other delightful sites of the city.  Grandfather and Grandmother Starmer offer a wonderful travelers guide for young and old alike in their ‘Adventures with Flat Abby’.  (It is amazing what ‘grandparenting’ does to otherwise, regular human beings. – including this Webmaster). For more details and history see their blog at:  http://frank.itlab.us/flat_abby/

We thank Abby’s  ‘Grandfather’ (Frank Starmer) and Grandmother for permission to use their 2004 photo of this MacNeil piece.  (Hermon would have smiled too!)

In coming weeks the webmaster will post another photo of this work as it was first displayed in H. A. MacNeil’s studio at College Point, Long Island, New York in 1931.  More later.

[mappress]

 

 MacNeil Month  #4  —  February 22, 2021 

 

JO Davidson

Political Sculptor 

Hermon MacNeil

Monument Maker

1930 – 1944

 

 JO DAVIDSON   ~ ~ “Political Sculptor” ~ ~

After the World War, requests for portrait busts occupied much of Jo Davidson’s  time sculpting.  His reputation for as a sculptor of good works and fast results traveled quicker than even his own frequent migrations across the Atlantic. He described his approach to portraits as “simple.”

I never had them pose but just talked about everything in the world.  Sculpture, I felt, was another language altogether and had nothing to do with words.  As soon as I got to work, I felt this other language growing between myself and the person I was “busting.”  I felt it in my hands.  Sometimes the people talked as if I was their confessor.  As they talked, I got an immediate insight into the sitters.”  [Between … p86-87.]

That approach used those same talented fingers that twenty years earlier touched clay in a barrel at Yale sculpture lab.  Those fingers were still touching the clay of Jo Davidson’s future.  Rather than hindering drive and ambition, the War years seemed to focus Jo more sharply.  

During the decades of the twenties, thirties, and forties “the powerful, the wealthy, and the talented were literally at Davidson’s fingertips.  During these three decades he completed hundreds of portraits as well as a numerous figural works.”

 DOUBLEDAY PORTRAITS  

In 1929 Jo had made a bust of George Doran of Doubleday, Doran and Company. Afterward George proposed an idea that Jo make busts of the company’s best selling authors in America and England.  The proposal and opportunities delighted Jo Davidson.

Jo’s self-appointed role as a “plastic historian” of his era contained his own mental list of potential subjects.  Many of Doran’s authors were already on Jo’s informal list.  Many were already Jo’s personal friends.  Later Doran sent a letter with a list of a dozen possible subjects.  Doran hosted a series of luncheons to gather the authors and initiate the project. 

Aldous Huxley by Jo Davidson, 1930

Through 1929-1930, Davidson modeled in Paris, London and New York to complete the assignment.  Eventually he completed portraits of James Boyce, Hugh Walpole, Frank Swinnerton, Edgar Wallace, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Booth Tarkington, Robinson Jeffers, Sir James Barrie, John Galsworthy, Georg Brandes, and Christopher Morley.  He made a bust of Rudyard Kippling from sketches made at a group luncheon, a product that delighted Doran. 

John Galsworthy by Jo Davidson

In June 1931, Jo Davidson opened a show of the results of the Doran project as “Portrait Busts of Some Contemporary Men of Letters” at Knoedler Galleries on Bond Street in New York City.  Jo added his portraits of George Bernard Shaw, James M. Barrie, and John Galsworthy to the show. The event was a benefit for the Royal Literary Fund.  Posters flooded the underground with busts of Shaw, Maugham, Lawrence and others. 

One reviewer wrote: “I never have never read a book of criticism that so subtly and completely inventoried the mind of the age as this room of Jo Davidson’s. It is a superb exercise of lively, sensitive, well-informed intelligence,”   All in all, the project and show assembled this “plastic historian’s” opus of English and American authors who produced many hundreds of novels of thought and imagination of the era.    [Between …, p241-264.]

1933 ~ FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: That Man in the White House  

CARTOON: FDR, 1932.  ‘Just leave ’em, Herb. I’ll do it all after March 4.’ Cartoon, 1932, by Clifford Berryman.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office as the 32nd President of the United States. The country was reeling in the third year of the Great Depression.   after the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Both the ensuing action and inaction of President Hoover continued to fuel the economic crisis and decline.  In the next four years, Roosevelt would begin rolling out massive economic relief legislation such as the Emergency Banking Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the National Recovery Administration and the Social Security Act.

At the suggestion of Sara Delano Roosevelt, the President’s mother, Jo Davidson went to Washington, D.C. to meet the new President after he took office on March 4th.  On entering the White House, he could hear barking dogs and voices of children in the distance.  The atmosphere impressed him as a friendly, alive, gay and human.  

The President was rolled in and greeted Jo with a broad, cheerful smile.  Then shaking Jo’s hand said: 

FDR:  “I’ve just had a meeting with a delegation of plasterers who want to have the plasterers and their assistants share in the profits.  That will fix your business.”

JoD:  “I am not a plasterer, … I am a chiseler!”  

Thus cementing our friendship, we made arrangements to get to work.  [Between …, p275.]

That evening Jo stayed at the White House for a conversational dinner with 14 guests.  Afterward he remained alone with the President and reviewed an album of busts Jo had made.  The President asked innumerable questions about Jo’s sitters many of whom he knew.  Their lively exchange continued past midnight.

The next day Jo sculpted the President sitting at his desk.  People came and went from the office.  Jo rolled his stand around to observe from all angles. The President put visitors at ease with jovial comments and winning smile.  He continued to work that evening and the next morning even as he sat in bed looking over papers.  Jo observed,

“President Roosevelt won me completely with his charm, his beautiful voice and his freedom from constraint.  He had unshakable faith in man.  All those projects — NRA, CWA, PWA, — all stemmed from his belief that if you give man a chance, he will not let you down.”

Jo outside the White House with his newest friend.

Jo also observed that the President did not forget about the Artists in his relief bills and WPA projects.  He admired the Presidents sense of direction.  Being a sailor he knew that traveling in a straight line was seldom possible.  Keeping a clear objective while tacking on and off course would still get you to the goal. 

  FROM ‘BUST’ TO ICON    Jo would go on to make numerous busts of Roosevelt, big, small, some carved in stone.  I observed a casting of this bronze bust bearing the Jo Davidson signature on the back while visiting the Churchill Museum at Fulton College in Fulton, Missouri several summers ago.  Churchill made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech there after Roosevelt’s death and the victory of World War II.   How thought it fitting that the curators of the Churchill Museum  choose Jo Davidson’s bust of FDR to portray that “Friendship that Saved the World.” 

Churchill and his family were also White House guests, soaking up the warmth and charm of the “sitting” President as was Jo when he sculpted.  Perhaps that warmth explains the thousands of souvenir miniatures imitating the original that are still sold in the marketplace ninety years later.  Or maybe as one critic phrased it, “His ‘President Roosevelt’ looks the character that the whole world has readily acknowledged.”

 1934 ~ LOSS OF LOVE ~ LOSS OF DIRECTION ~ 

One day Jo walked by a paint shop and saw a miniature water color set in the window bought it.  Less than two inches square he admired it. Compact and complete, it went in his pocket and never left him.  

Yvonne had been in poor health for several years, but was anxious to visit California to see their old friends Lincoln Steffens and his wife, Ella Winter.  The couples had been constant companions in their early years in Paris visiting Bistros and discovering “special foods in the French manner.”  They boarded a train heading cross-country to California. On the train Jo sketch and water-colored his way West.

Arriving in San Francisco they were besieged by reporters: Jo was the sculptor of the President and Yvonne was a great dress designer from Paris.  They visited old haunts and old friends staying with the Steffens.  But Yvonne felt worse. A doctor was called and she was put on rest.  She rallied some, visited old friends, and they returned to New York.  Back home Yvonne Davidson suffered a stroke and died two days later.

New York Daily News. Sunday, May 13, 1934.

The loss of his love of twenty-five years devastated Jo, and he began a period of “Restless Days” as he titled that chapter in his autobiography.  Those “Days” would last for three years.  He left for Paris but could not focus to work.  Life felt empty and cold.  He returned to his Bécheron studio, but his heart was not in it.  Returning to Paris he sought to settle down with his grown sons but their lives were young and Jo’s was old.  Finally he returned to New York but without Yvonne, he found it just as lonely as Paris and Bécheron.  He felt deep loss of love and direction.  

“During these years my life was without an anchor.  I kept on traveling — London, New York, Washington, Paris, California, but I was too restless to stay anywhere for very long.  I was still looking for some project in which I could completely forget myself.

A quarter of a century earlier in his life, Jo was a wanderer — looking, searching, roving until he found “the sculptor within.”  But now with the loss of love, the loss of companionship, he struggled to find direction — a reason to work, a passion to give his hands to, a project to consume his active craving for carving art. 

 MORE DISAPPOINTMENTS  He received a letter from a friend asking if he would consider doing a statue of Thomas Paine to be placed in Paris.  Paine along with Walt Whitman were two early heroes in Jo’s personal pantheon.  After hopes and excitement from friends, he was flattened to learn that the committee his friend was on had already awarded the commission to Gutzum Borglum.  Dejected, he put his sketch of Thomas Paine in his studio drawer. 

To this regret was added a further blow.  Jo returned to Paris only to learn that his beloved friend, Lincoln Steffens, had died.  Steffens was a listener.  Jo didn’t have many.  For nearly two decades he valued that understanding ear.  This dear friend’s passing was a deep loss and only compounded the Restless Days with another layer of sorrow.

 1935 ~ A NATIONAL LOSS  ~  WILL ROGERS DIES 

On August 15, 1935, American humorist and “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son,” Will Rogers died with aviator Wiley Post  when their small plane crashed after take-off in Point Borrow, Alaska. The pair were on an around-the-globe flight.  In 1931 Post had become the first man to fly solo round-the-world.

Will Rogers had become an American Icon.  An actor on stage and films, a vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator; Will  was “a Cherokee citizen born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.”  The warm humor of this home-spun figure won the hearts of Americans long before his sudden death at the height of the Great Depression.  His passing was a shocking sorrow in very trying times for the American public.

Jo Davidson had wanted to do a bust of Rogers but never had.  Betty, Will’s wife, had often urged him to pose for Jo.  Will would always decline jokingly calling Jo “old that headhunter” to the amusement of Jo and all nearby.  

Weeks later dining in New York with Sidney Kent of Fox Films, Jo shared his regret and the desire to immortalize Will Rogers.  Kent concurred, and agreed to lend Jo some of Will’s old movies to do the modeling work.   Jo received a letter from E. W. Marland, his old oil man friend from Ponca City, Oklahoma and the Pioneer Woman commission.  Marland was now Governor Marland.  Jo went of Oklahoma City, visited with the Governor and signed a contract to make the Will Rogers statue.

Returning to his Paris Studio the Fox Films crew set up a big projector and large screen and began running continuous movies of Will Rogers in the front studio while Jo worked in the back.  Friends gathered in this new Will Rogers “studio” for a week as Jo “worked, talked, and lived nothing but Will Rogers.  The films brought back so many memories.”  [Between …, p. 298.]

“Betty Rogers sent Wills clothes, his shirt, his tie and his shoes. … Then I had the model put on Will’s clothes.  They still contained his personality.  Clothes have a way of being impersonal until they are worn; then they become a part of the person who wore them — like a glove before and after wearing. [Between …, pp. 299-300.]

 

– Will Rogers – Keeping an eye on Congress… since June 6, 1939.

“Before his death, the state of Oklahoma commissioned a statue of Rogers, to be displayed as one of the two it has in the National Statuary Hall Collection of the United States Capitol. Rogers agreed on the condition that his image would be placed facing the House Chamber, supposedly so he could “keep an eye on Congress”. Of the statues in this part of the Capitol, the Rogers sculpture is the only one facing the Chamber entrance—a stakeout location for camera crews looking to catch House members during and after voting. It is also a common background for reporters and lawmakers, with staff often directing the media to be at the “Will Rogers stakeout” at a certain time. According to some Capitol guides, each US president rubs the left shoe of the Rogers statue for good luck before entering the House Chamber to give the State of the Union address.” [34]   [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Rogers]

Claremore, Oklahoma — Will Rogers Museum – centerpiece

When the second statue was dedicated in the rotunda of the Will Rogers Museum in Claremont, Oklahoma. 20,000 people from all over came for the unveiling — Indians, cowboys, and other friends of Will’s.  A radio program was broadcast nation-wide and President Roosevelt spoke from Hyde Park.  He told the nation of listeners:

“There was something infectious about his humor.  His appeal went straight to the heart of the nation.  Above all things, in a time grown too solemn and sober, he brought his countrymen back to a sense of proportion “

When Will’s daughter Mary pulled the string unveiling the eight and a half foot statue, “there was a moment of hushed awe.  The light fell on the statue just right.  Mrs. Rogers, overcome, broke down and wept.”  [Between …, p. 300.] 

DC Capitol Assault? by “Trump-it-eers!” ~~ What Would Will Rogers Say about January 6, 2021 ?

 

 1939 ~ STARTING AGAIN ~ Walt Whitman walks the Woods 

One day Averell Harriman visited Jo in his Paris studio and admired his sketch for a Walt Whitman statue.  When Jo lamented that the NY Park Commission refused to place it in three different parks, Averell suggested a home for it in Bear Mountain Park.  He invited Jo to his home to view the park for possible sites.

The park had been part of the Harriman property in Arden, NY.  His mother had designated 10,000 acres adjoining Bear Mountain as a public park.  Averell wanted a statue of Whitman to commemorate his mother’s gift.  Jo’s idea of Whitman fit the family’s plans for a commemorative.

Jo returned to New York in the autumn visiting Harriman for the Thanksgiving holidays.  He had immersed himself in Walt Whitman and found that the poet had actually roamed through those same hills.  Jo tramped along the wooded Appalachian Trail finding a long graceful rock formation large enough to support a bronze statue.  He determined with enlarged photostats of his sketch that an eight and a half foot statue would command the rock face as a convincing figure to be found walking in the woods.

Jo Davidson worked off and on for several years on the Walt Whitman figure.  In 1939 it was cast and displayed at the New York World’s Fair before finding a final dedication and home on Bear Mountain.

 RECASTING:  Jo had had so many disappointments that never expected the statue to emerge beyond his sketch. But it did!  Matter of fact, in 1957, six years after Jo Davidson’s death, the Fairmont Park Art Association of Philadelphia placed another casting of the statue on Broad Street near the entrance to the Walt Whitman Bridge.  

Davidson described his satisfaction in this period of his life in these words:

“THERE IS NO GREATER HAPPINESS THAN WORKING ON SOMETHING THAT ONE VERY MUCH WANTS  TO DO.”

 


 THE ‘WORK OF ART’ ~ the RECOVERING THE PASSION

The passion of Jo Davidson’s life was  sculpting.   One day when he and his friend six-foot-three friend, Charlie, (Charles W. Ervin) with a “booming voice” were in the Jo’s studio having lunch:

“I got an itch to do a bust of that booming voice.  The bust seemed to do itself I think that André Gide’s definition of a work of art applied in this case: “A collaboration between the subconscious, which is God’s part, and the artist; and the less the artist interferes, the greater the work of art.”  This has happened to me several times in my life as a sculptor.  … if I can hear the sitter’s voice, I know that the bust is good.  

Jo had a very spacious studio in the Beaux Arts building.  He he was happy there especially as people could and would drop by; he needed people around.  It was a busy studio where Jo completed one sitting with another.  Among others he did:

David Sarnoff – President of National Broadcasting Company who championed the development of broadcast communications in radio and television.

Edward MacCarten – Sculptor and Jo’s old friend from Art Students League and another of Hermon MacNeil’s student who gave him the following advise:“One day he said, “Jo, here’s an idea. When you come here tomorrow go to work as if this is your last day on earth and you have to finish your statue before you die.” This struck home. The next day I went to work with new energy.  I didn’t die that night, nor did I finish the “David” that day. But as I look back, MacCarten’s advise was one of the greatest contributions that I ever received from a fellow artist.”

They met up again when Jo came to Paris to study Beaux Arts with  no Scholarship, no support, and $40 in his pocket during Jo’s adventuring and searching years. 

Sinclair Lewis – American writer and playwright.  First writer from the United States  to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature

A BRIEF REPRISE of old love ~~ One day into that busy studio walked another former sculptor from days at the Art Student League:

“When I finished (Sinclair) Lewis’ bust, Florence Lucius was in my studio and we were talking about portraiture.  She reminded me of John Sargent’s definition of a portrait, ‘a picture of somebody with something the matter with the mouth.’  Some ten minutes later Dorothy Thompson came in to look at her husband’s bust.  She gave one glance, turned to me and said, “It’s very good but there is something the matter with the mouth.'”   [Between …, p303.]

A passing moment of shared irony ?  …

with a  briefly re-discovered old friend ?  …

but MAYBE it was more…  ?   ?    ?

MORE PLASTIC HISTORY – THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR   In the summer and fall of 1938 modeled portraits of Spanish Loyalists of the Civil War.  The results were exhibited in the Arden Gallery in New York City and published as: Jo Davidson: Spanish Portraits. New York: The Georgian Press, Inc., 1938.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 FLORENCE “Flossie” LUCIUS  ~ OLD LOVE REKINDLES 

After many years of rumblings, World War II began 1939.   Jo turned over his farm and home in Bécheron to the Vichy government to house various attachés.  So in 1940 he returned to the United States.  Jo states that he “was still at loose ends, restless and haunted by a vague sense of dissatisfaction.  There was no real reason for this complicated business of living”  Jo’s passion for sculpting was interrupted.

Into Jo Davidson’s global and personal malaise walked an old flame he had fallen hard for three decades earlier — “Flossie” Florence Lucius

“Then one day, I found my old love of the Art Students League days, Florence Lucius.  I hadn’t seen her for several years.  … With Flossie around, life began to take on a new meaning and the studio began bubbling with life and buzzing with people.

Jo and Flossie visited friends in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and while driving around Jo saw a farm for sale that reminded him of Bécheron.  Jo asked his architect friend Burral Hoffman to look it over as a possible home and studio.  

HEART CRISIS !   Although Jo had rediscovered the love of his young heart, at fifty-seven years his own heart was showing signs of hard-working wear.  Out at dinner with friends … I felt an excruciating pain in my left arm, and the next day, I was in the hospital with a heart attack.  I spent six weeks in the hospital.”

Burrell Hoffman came to see him with the proposal of sketches showing how the barn of the Bucks County farm could be converted into a wonderful studio space.  Jo was delighted with the plans and future studio, his American Bécheron.  At discharge the doctor ordered complete rest and no worries so Jo and Florence went to the Virgin Islands staying for two blissful months. Until one evening a Jimmy Sheean, (a fresh-faced and insolent radio announcer who brought home the war to American listeners) began “reporting the bombing of a Red Cross train in France by the Germans.  Other voices told of roads filled with refugees.  In the peace and quiet of this beautiful night in St. Thomas the news was appalling.  I packed my bags and returned to New York.”

The words “roads filled with refugees” had to trigger Jo’s memories of similar scenes he witnessed in 1914 while covering WW I first-hand from Belgium.  He went from “refugee stories” to his new American Bécheron in Bucks County.  The new studio and home now renamed “Stone Court Farm” was now ready for the new couple.

SCULPTING AGAIN ~ Roosevelt’s 3rd

Characteristically, Jo very quickly got his first sculpting job.  In a phone call he was asked to do the third inaugural medal for President Roosevelt  This was a rush job with just days to complete.   Sent a photograph to work from, Jo became frustrated.  Jo sculpted from life not antique photographs.  He just couldn’t properly do a bas-relief this way.  So, he made his own phone call, flew to Washington and the 32nd President posed for two sittings.  Rush mission accomplished!

SOUTH AMERICAN JOURNEY ~ Good Will Ambassador

Florence Lucius Davidson

On evening visiting with friends Jo met John Abbott who worked for Nelson Rockefeller, Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.   The agency’s mission was to promote inter-American cooperation (Pan-Americanism) especially in commercial, cultural and economic areas thus strengthening U. S. ties with South American Nations.  The idea was conceived that night for Jo to travel as a Good Will Ambassador making busts of Presidents of South American Republics. The idea quickly became an official mission to create busts of ten presidents.

Needing an Assistant, Jo turned to Flossie, a sculptor herself.  Jo also wanted her to marry him which they did after arriving in Venezuela.  They had known each other since days as art students.  It had been puppy love back then now both those old feelings came right back and their need for each other at this point in life’s journey brought a new sense of happiness that they both needed and deserved.  So now Florence Lucius became Florence Lucius Davidson, and Jo added another portrait bust to his growing collection.  

On the six month mission to South America, Jo had to travel by flying. “From country to country — Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, and others — he flew, modeling the presidents he met in clay, casting them in bronze on his return to the United States.  There, they were exhibited in the National Gallery of Arts in Washington.  Later, they were given to the various countries as a gift from the United States.” 5.

Writing to Flossie about Jo, Van Wyck Brooks once stated, He’s an entire United Nations in his own way.”  On this Good Will Ambassador tour that could not have been more true.

Back home again.  There soon followed portrait busts of Henry Wallace, Vice President of the United States; Ernie Pyle, reporter and war correspondent; Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and Van Wyck Brooks, biographer, literary critic, and historian.

 THIRTY YEARS AND HUNDREDS OF SCULPTURES 

In the thirty years (1920-1949) Jo Davidson would go on to travel the world making hundreds of portrait busts and figures.  Some on commission, but many just because he was asked or he just wanted to.  Looking around his studio one day, He said he realized that he was the World’s Largest Collector of “Jo Davidson” busts.

Jo Davidson with Busts of 8 Presidents that he completed.

Jo continued his constant pace of sittings for portrait bust —  just a few of those “sitters” included:

Clarence Darrow 1929, Charlie Chaplin 1925, Lincoln Steffens 1920, Robert M. La Follette 1923, W. Averell Harriman 1935, Franklin Roosevelt 1933, 1951, Fiorello LaGuardia (1934), Andrew Mellon (1927), Andrew Furuseth (1929) Mother Jones (1922), Carl Sandburg 1931, Ignace Paderewski (1920), Will Rogers (1935-38), Mahatma Gandhi (1931), Albert Einstein (1934). Arthur Conan Doyle, Israel Zangwill, Albert Einstein 1937, Emma Goldman, Frank Harris, Hellen Keller 1942, John D. Rockefeller 1924, Dolores Ibárruri, Franklin Roosevelt 1934, 1951, Henry A. Wallace, Walt Whitman, , Dwight D. Eisenhower 1948,  H. G. Wells, Gertrude Stein 1923, Josip Tito, Carl Sandburg 1939, Edward Willis Scripps 1922, George Bernard Shaw 1931,  Mahatma Gandhi, James Joyce, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Henry LuceJames Barrie, Joseph Conrad, Charles G. Dawes, Will Rogers 1935-38, Anatole France, André Gide, Robinson Jeffers 1930, John Marin and Ida Rubinstein.  1

That tactile process of wordless communication accelerated “the portrait sculptor within.” And his fame kept preceding him as he assembled a PLASTIC HISTORY OF HIS TIMES

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jo Davidson as AMATEUR POLITICIAN 

~ ROOTING FOR ROOSEVELT ~

Jo Davidson ~ Political Sculptor

TIME Sept. 9, 1946. Jo Davidson Featured

TIME Sept. 9, 1946. Jo Davidson Featured

TIME magazine put Jo Davidson’s face on the cover in September, 1946.  The cover lampoon and story inside form a satirical and rather pejorative piece about Jo’s later activities in the political spotlight after FDR’s death in April 1945. 

The cover featured a cartoon figure speaking words “Vote For…” into a microphone.  The figure was a collage of a palette board face, a violin torso, paint brush legs, sculptors tools arms, standing on three books and a soap-box. 

Jo was famous, loved people, circulated in an extensive network of the wealthy and famous including Hollywood. Davidson had become a political activist and was reluctantly elected chairman of the Independent Citizens Committee of Artists, Scientists, and Professionals (ICCASP), a group that supported the policies of President Franklin Roosevelt but now FDR was gone.

Originally formed as the Independent Voters Committee of the Arts and Sciences for Roosevelt, its organizational meeting was held in Jo’s studio (the only room big enough to hold a crowd).  Jo was elected chairman because he was the host that everybody knew.  This progressive collage included Actors, Musicians, Entertainers, Authors, Poets, Artists, Painters, Political activists, Scientists.  Their mission was to illuminate the 1944 re-election campaign of President Roosevelt by shining the star-power this distinguished collection of public faces and names behind an ongoing Roosevelt agenda.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (L), talking to the Independent Voters Committee (L to R) Van Wyck Brooks, Hanna Dornen, Jo Davidson, Jan Jiepung, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Gish, Dir. Harlow Shapely and James Proctor. (Photo by George Skadding/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Jo reports that when the group went to call on the President, he jokingly asked Jo, have they called you a Communist yet?” They hadn’t, but Jo didn’t have long to wait. The TIME story suggests that the group had picked up a few Communists, like the fleas on a dog.  Jo Davidson suggested to the reporter that “its Communists have no more to do with its course that fleas do with a dog’s.”   To the question of Communist influence, Jo Davidson replied: “Have you stopped beating your wife.”

After Roosevelt’s death and President Harry Truman succeeding him into the office, the group had to refocus in Post World War II America.  An opponent of the Cold War policies of Harry S. Truman, he joined the Progressive Citizens of America (PCA). Other members included Rexford Tugwell, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Arthur Miller, Dashiell Hammett, Hellen Keller, Thomas Mann, Aaron Copland, Claude Pepper, Eugene O’Neill, Glen H. Taylor, John Abt, Edna Ferber, Thornton Wilder, Carl Van Doren, Fredric March and Gene Kelly.

Davidson supported Henry A. Wallace in the 1948 Presidential Election. Wallace’s running-mate was Glen H. Taylor, the left-wing senator for Idaho. A group of conservatives, including Henry Luce, Clare Booth Luce, Adolf Berle, Lawrence Spivak and Hans von Kaltenborn, sent a cable to Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary, that the PCA were only “a small minority of Communists, fellow-travelers and what we call here totalitarian liberals.” Winston Churchill agreed and described Wallace and his followers as “crypto-Communists”.

   ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

“No one ever met Jo and then forgot him. Wherever he was, his vibrant personality pervaded. He was tremendously gifted for the work he did. He was intelligent, incisive, witty, a marvelous raconteur. His enthusiasm was endless. He hated everything mean or intolerant.”
– Harry Rosin –  Bucks County Sculptor and neighbor         https://bucksco.michenerartmuseum.org/artists/jo-davidson

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Jo Davidson Sculptures [partial list of hotlinks]:

 

SOURCES for Davidson material:

  1. Spartacus Educational: Jo Davidson.   © John Simkin, May 2013.  FOUND AT: https://spartacus-educational.com/Ajo_davidson.htm
  2. TIME, “Political Notes: Glamor Pusses.” VOL. XLVIII, No. 11, September 9, 1946. pp. 23-25.
  3. Connor, Janis and Joel Rosenkranz, photographs by David Finn, Rediscoveries in American Sculpture: Studio Works, 1893 – 1939, University of Texas Press, Austin TX 1989.
  4. Jo Davidson. Between Sittings: An Informal Autobiography of Jo Davidson, New York: Dial Press, 1951.
  5. Lois Harris Kuhn. The World of Jo Davidson, New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudhay, 1958.  p. 153.

 


 

  1.  HERMON ATKINS MACNEIL 
  2. ~ ~ More Monuments ~ 1930 ~ 1940 ~ ~

1930 ~ “The Pilgrim Memorial” ~ Waterbury, CT

ABOUT THE PIONEER MEMORIAL

“The Harrub Pilgrim Memorial was carved out of French granite by Hermon Atkins MacNeil of New York. Charles Harrub, an engineer for the American Brass Company, donated the $100,000 needed for the project to honor his wife and the Pilgrims. Dedicated October 11, 1930. It is now located at the corner of Highland Avenue and Chase Parkway. (Photo by Daniel M. Lynch, Mattatuck Consulting, LLC.” 

This website of tells the history of settling Waterbury CT from 1657 to the American Revolution.  Descendants of early settlers give family genealogy and memorable stories. Source: OFFICIAL WEBSITE of the RIVER-HOPKINS and SAEMANN-NICKEL and Related Families

A second history blog of Waterbury offers additional photos and history of the memorial.  Here’s a photo from dedication day.

“Sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil was commissioned to create the monument. Based in New York City, MacNeil is remembered for having designed the 1917 quarter, as well as for a series of sculptures depicting Native Americans in classically heroic poses.

The Harrub Memorial was completed in 1930 and unveiled at a ceremony held on October 11, 1930. Although it is now located at the top of Chase Park, off Highland Avenue, the monument was originally placed at the bottom of the hill, facing Freight Street.”

 

1930 ~ Judge Thomas Burke Memorial

In Seattle, Washington the Memorial to Judge Thomas Burke exhibits MacNeil’s classic Beaux Arts design and allegorical figures.  Beneath the bronze bas relief of  Burke’s profile, the engraved stone pilaster  reads:  “Patriot, Jurist, Friend, Patron of Education, First of every movement for the advancement of the city and the state, Seattle’s foremost and best beloved Citizen.”

“Burke came to Seattle in 1875 and formed a law partnership with John J. McGilvra; he soon married McGilvra’s daughter Caroline.[2] He established himself as a civic activist: one of his first projects was to raise funds for a planked walkway from roughly the corner of First and Pike (now site of Pike Place Market) through Belltown to Lake Union.[7]

Cartoon of Thomas Burke, railroad man

He served as probate judge 1876-1880[8] and as chief justice of the Washington Territorial Supreme Court in 1888.[3]

“Irish as a clay pipe,”[9] and well liked by early Seattle’s largely Irish working class, as a lawyer Burke was well known for collecting large fees from his wealthy clients and providing free legal services for the poor.  [Source: Thomas Burke (railroad builder)]

 

1931 ~ President James Monroe bust

Monroe-HAM-1931HOF_NYU

US President James Monroe

Exactly 100 years after James Monroes death (b. April 28, 1758 – d.July 4, 1831), Hermon MacNeil completed a bronze bust of this U.S. President.  It was MacNeil’s fourth statue of a US President. (Washington 1916, Lincoln 1928, McKinley 1906

 

This bronze bust by Hermon MacNeil resides in the Hall of Fame of Great Americans on the campus of Bronx Community College (formerly NYU). The aging memorial of over 100 busts was designed by Stanford White, famous “Beaux Arts” architect of New York City. 

Monroe was the fifth President of the United States (1817–1825).  He was the last president from the group known as the Founding Fathers.  Monroe was also the last President from the Virginia dynasty.  In 1936 MacNeil would sculpt one other Virginian from the Revolutionary era — “George Rogers Clark” (National Monument in Vincennes, Indiana site of the Clark’s Revolutionary victory at Fort Sackville).

CHECK OUT THESE LINKS ALSO:

  1. Hall of Fame:  MacNeil has Four busts enshrined there.
  2. MORE: on Monroe

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1931 ~ HOPI ~~ PRAYER FOR RAIN  ~~ Issue #3

When Hermon MacNeil was asked to make the Third Issue of the new Society of Medalists Series, He chose to revert to his early experiences of 1895 of Native American in the Arizona and New Mexico territory.

 


 

1932 CONFEDERATE DEFENDERS 

~~ Charleston, SC ~~ Ft Sumter Harbor ~~

Grafetti after shooting at Mother Emmanuel Church Charleston 2015

The “Confederate Defenders” designed and sculpted by Hermon A. MacNeil was selected by a committee of Charlestonians from over a dozen proposals of other sculptors. 

Unlike many monuments featuring soldiers, cannons arms, horsed and battles raging, MacNeil’s concept was different.

I like to think that the committee awarded the commission for this design because of its classical Beaux Arts treatment of allegorical symbolism.  In MacNeil communicated — Youth, Athleticism, defense, the shield bearing the Seal of South Carolina, The Athena Goddess of Charleston.

In the 21 Century the Monument has become a “protest site” after shootings in 2015 at a Bible study at Mother Emanuel Church a few blocks north. 

More recently opposing groups such as:  Black Lives Matter and  Flags Across the South. Have protested on the site.

Both groups gathered. Black Lives Matter marchers held their signs along The Battery wall. Across the street at the Confederate Defenders Monument, members of  as Charleston Police stood watch.

Eventually the City Council worked out a compromise schedule of rotating permits for the plaza of the statue area

 

 

1932 U.S. Supreme Court  Building ~ East Pediment

Moses ~ Confucius ~  Salon

 

General Alfred Howe Terry

General John Sedgwick

  1934 ~ Alfred H. Terry ~ Connecticut Capitol Building 

Location:  south elevation.   Artist: Hermon MacNeil.

1934 ~ John Sedgwick ~ Connecticut Capitol Building

Location:  south elevation.   Artist: Hermon MacNeil.

 

 

1936 ~ George Rogers Clark Memorial ~ Hero of the American Revolution

Clark National Monument where MacNeil’s George R. Clark is housed

MacNeil’s Statue of George Rogers Clark is inside the circular dome of the Monument in Vincennes, IN.  CLICK HERE for More

CLICK HERE for the National Park Service’s story of this National Monument (CLICK) 

This beautifully restored dome on the prairie contains Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s heroic statue of George Rogers Clark, a Virginian who saw the importance of the West in the war effort as a whole. He persuaded Virginia’s government (and Governor Thomas Jefferson) to support his efforts; then with 200 men, he crossed the Ohio River to the Mississippi River taking Kaskaskia and Cahokia, and returning to capture Fort Sackville at Vincennes.

The following video by RATIO Architects shows the reconstruction and restoration of The George Rogers Clark Memorial roof and foundations in 2005 after decades of leakage, erosion, corrosion, stalactite formation and water damage to the steps and walkways. (length 6:24 min; Source RATIO Architects )

Thanks RATIO for restoring  this monument of American history and giving us this documentation. Dan Leininger, webmaster of HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com

Treaty of Paris, by Benjamin West (1783), depicts the United States delegation at the Treaty of Paris (left to right): John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British delegation refused to pose, and the painting was never completed.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial is on the sight of the British Fort Sackville of 1779. Clark and his 170 frontier men demanded surrender from  British Lt., Governor Henry Hamilton by surprise and deception on Feb 25, 1779. They marshaled troops waving flags and firing rapidly as if they were a larger army.  Clark’s strategies and victories in the West marked the beginning of the end of British domination in America’s western frontier and by the Treaty of Paris (1783) extended the 13 colonies westward to the Mississippi River. 

Re-enactment of Fort Sackville surrender

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1940 ~ The Pony Express ~ Saint Joseph, MO

Follow the setting Sun

The Legend of the Pony Express is larger than life.  The images of riders carrying pouches (mochilas) of mail from Saint Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California, (a 1900 mile route) through 186 Pony Express Stations along the route about 10 miles apart. Riders had to take an oath, must weigh less than 125 pounds, riding both day and night through sun and rain. Riders changed every 75 -100 miles or doubling that in emergencies from April 1860 to September 1961 before the transcontinental telegraph was completed.  

The legend of Hermon MacNeil’s Pony Express statue is told here on 5 different stories linked on this single thread searched with “Pony Express”.  (including Poncho Villa) MacNeil’s legendary statue includes:

  • a black mounted action figure heading West with hair and bandana streaming,
  • Four mochilas (pouches) for mail,
  • a pistol on his hip,
  • a Sun carved on the south side of the base symbolizing daytime and the Moon on the north side for night.
  • The legend of “Poncho Villa” the wild Dakota range horse that MacNeil modeled for the muscular steed running to the sun.

Poncho Villa was an ‘outlaw’ horse tamed by Dr. S. Meredith Strong, a physician and horse lover who was the National President of the American Rough Riders Association, a group devoted to the preservation of the wild mustangs. He traveled thousands of miles as a lover-of-horse-flesh seeking to preserve this western heritage. He and MacNeil must have had some interesting conversations.  (The newspaper photo shows Hermon MacNeil seated on the statue).

Neither rain, sleet, snow or dark of night shall keep the rider from his appointed journey.  Burr!

HOTLINKS TO 1930-1940 Statues and Monuments by Hermon A. MacNeil

 

 

Categories : Location
Comments (0)

A man was arrested in Charleston, SC, at The Confederate Defenders statue today as a woman was video recording. “For the past couple Sundays, supporters of Black Lives Matter and supporters of the Confederacy, a group called Flags Across America, have stood at the Battery near the Confederate Defenders statue to protest.”

ABC News 4 & WCIV report Charleston police stating that “a man was arrested after he allegedly “chest-bumped” a woman near the Confederate Defenders statue.

Witnesses tell ABC News 4 that a man shoved a Black Lives Matter protester. Charleston Police officials said they don’t have information on which group he was supporting.

Seven weeks ago on May 30th, the base of this statue was marked with red spray paint. Incidents have continued since then.

Since the murders at the AME Mother Emmanuel Church in 2015, The Confederate Defenders have been spray painted at least 3 times.

No one has been was injured in any of these incidents since 2015.

CLICK HERE: FOR VIDEO and further details OF THE ARREST.

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OTHER VANDALISM ELSEWHERE on MacNeil works:

In New York City the MacNeil statue of George Washington as General of the Continental Army has also been spray painted. CLICK HERE

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Related posts:

 

 

FRIEZE

RECENT Posts here at on https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/ have reported demonstrations staged around The Confederate Defenders Sculpture at Battery Point in Charleston, SC. 
 
That Monument was commissioned around 1930 to focus on Fort Sumter out in the Harbor. he following editorial appeared in FRIEZE three years ago.  The Opinion raises an important distinction, namely, Historical Fact versus Collective Memory.
 
 
[Julian Chambliss is Professor of English and History at Michigan State University (MSU), in East Lansing, MI.]
23 Aug 2017

Public debate around Confederate insignia has little to do with historical fact, and everything to do with collective memory.

What we see happening in places like Charlottesville today – after the tragic, bloody events of last weekend, and the roiling debates around Confederate monuments – has less to do with historical fact and more to do with collective memory. In Dell Upton’s 2015 book What Can and Can’t Be Said – his insightful examination of African-American memorials in the United States – we are presented with two pivotal questions regarding our understanding of monuments in the contemporary South: what is possible and what is permitted to be said in debates around public memorials?

Upton’s analysis of civil rights memorials acknowledges a key point too often omitted from contemporary debates. New South ‘boosterism’ invented the memorial landscape in the 1880s and 1890s. A class of merchants, manufacturers and financiers sought to transform the south. Partnering with figures such as Henry W. Grady (1850-89), the managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution, they promoted industrial growth, agrarian reform, and northern investment to reintegrate the region into the ‘political and economic life’ of the United States. This process required the stripping away of facts around the political, economic, and social motivations involved in fighting the Civil War, and in its place, a new context that embraced a collective understanding of southern sentiment about the war that would be acceptable to northern whites. This process had nothing to do with the history of the war. Americans, north and south, knew full well that the Confederacy was created to preserve slavery, and the resolution of the Civil War meant the end of a slave democracy on which southerners relied. 

Detail from H.A. MacNeil’s Confederate Defenders of Charlestone monument (1932). Courtesy: Mr.TinDC, Flickr, Creative Commons

Detail from H.A. MacNeil’s Confederate Defenders of Charleston monument, 1932, Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy: Mr.TinDC, Flickr, Creative Commons

In other words, today we are not debating what happened, but instead we are quarrelling about how southerners choose to remember it. As countless historians have tirelessly explained, the Confederate memorials that dot the landscape were erected long after the war was fought as southerners promoted the idea of a ‘New South.’ New, in the sense that a new generation of southern leaders embraced a narrative of modernization and preservation: a narrative that argued that southerners fought nobly not to preserve slavery, but for self-determination against northern aggression. This story meant that, fuelled by a regional identity that believed in honour, family, and religion, southerners may have lost on the battlefield, but they would retain the values that defined their culture. They continued to preserve those noble values even as they grew cities and nurtured industries such as textiles and railroads.

They succeeded in reshaping and rebranding the region, but it came at a high cost for black Americans. As southern whites murdered and disenfranchised black people, they would celebrate why they committed those acts by creating markers to an idealized version of white southern history. The memorials we debate today are public markers created by private groups that endorse this white vision and support these white actions. In truth, we should not call them memorials. A proper label would be ‘political markers funded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and gifted to municipalities across the South to celebrate the re-establishment of white rule after Reconstruction’.  

The pattern of greatest activism linked to these markers between 1896 and 1919 and again between 1954 and 1965 correlates to the public proclamations of anti-black sentiment at those moments. Indeed, the first period coincides with the rise of white supremacy marked by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that legalized segregation and opened the door to subsequent black voter suppression, a lynching campaign in the 1890s and a series of anti-black riots in communities such as Atlanta (1906), Springfield (1908), and East St. Louis (1917). This aggression culminated in 1919 with what author James Weldon Johnson described as the ‘The Red Summer’: a series of 26 race-inspired riots that erupted across the United States. The second period marked white southerners reacting against the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954 that ended school segregation. In the years that followed that victory – as Martin Luther King and countless others marched in nonviolent protest culminating in the Civil Rights Act (1964) which outlawed discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin and the Voting Rights Act (1965) which prevented denial or restriction of the right to vote – southerners embraced symbols of the Confederacy.

Navigating the space created between history and feeling prompted me to participate in The Confederate Flag – 13 Flag Funerals organized by artist John Sims on 25 May 2015. In organizing the burning and burials of the Confederate Flag in the former states of the Confederacy on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, Sims commemorated the struggle for freedom from an African-American perspective. A form of creative resistance, the project highlighted what countless black and white people were prevented from saying for decades. A black person burning a symbol of the Confederacy in public rejects the romanticized South and challenges the white-centric public memory that defines the region. Online threats, calls to my college for me to be fired and calls for me to be arrested for burning the Confederate flag, bombarded me as I pursued this project. Yet, in confronting Confederate symbolism with a public art project, we foreshadowed a wider debate around truth in the public sphere. It reminded Americans that black people who challenged white supremacy have been terrorized, beaten, or killed for doing so. It acknowledged, as should be obvious, that African Americans rejoiced in the South’s defeat, suffered brutally through Jim Crow segregation and continue today to seek freedom equal to all in the public square.

While previous ethnic white immigrants that came to United States were placed in a ‘melting pot’ that washed away their difference and made them ‘white’, our contemporary social space cannot be defined by that white racial status quo. The lived experience that defines the modern United States requires the legacies and memories of all our people to inform the public square we inhabit. While it may seem like an empowered white majority clinging to the past defines our current reality, in truth, today many more Americans are claiming a place for their experiences to define our democracy. Together we care about the truth and reject symbols that threaten and demean; we seek a community that celebrates the richness of our diversity. But we must work hard to confront the truth of historical violence and its effect. With that truth made clear, we can move towards a public sphere that celebrates the people and institutions that helped the United States live up to its ideals. 

Main image: detail from Moses Jacob Ezekiel’s Confederate monument (1914) at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Courtesy: Mark Fischer, Flickr, Creative Commons

 

Julian Chambliss is Professor of English and History at Michigan State University (MSU), in East Lansing, MI.

WHAT YOU FIND HERE.

Here is ONE place to go to see sculpture of Hermon A. MacNeil & his students. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and private, these creations point us toward the history and values that root Americans.

Daniel Neil Leininger ~ HAMacNeil@gmail.com
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