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“The Dark Iconoclast”: African Americans’ Artistic Resistance in the Civil War South

Pages 133-167
Published online: 11 Jan 2018


1. For John Wollaston’s portrait of Daniel Ward and its family history, see Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), Winston-Salem, NC, object file 3351; and Daniel Ackerman, associate curator, MESDA, e-mail with author, August 7, 2014. The condition report strengthens this provenance, as the heat caused the pigments to discolor and resulted in heavy losses and darkened paint in some areas, which were still visible on the painting until recent conservation efforts. For the Union bombardment, see W. Chris Phelps, The Bombardment of Charleston, 1863–1865 (Gretna, LA: Pelican, 1999), 132–33. The owner of the painting at the time of the Civil War lived at 10 Atlantic Street, Charleston, and was likely Alexander Chandler McGillivray, a slave broker and auctioneer, or perhaps William McGillivray, who also lived at that address. Unfortunately, little information can be found about either the members of the McGillivray family or their slaves. The family rented out the property at the time of the 1861 census, and by 1870 only one African American woman, Sarah Pinckney, remained working as a paid domestic; she is listed as illiterate. See J. H. Bagget, Directory for the City of Charleston, for the Year 1852 (Charleston: J. H. Bagget, 1851), 79; Frederick A. Ford, Census of the City of Charleston, South Carolina, for the Year 1861 (Charleston, 1861), accessible through “Documenting the American South,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,; and United States Census, “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed July 24, 2015,

2. Terminology becomes confusing since freedom came to different individuals at different times. Many men and women who were legally free after the Emancipation Proclamation continued to be held in bondage. I employ the term “enslaved” because it asserts the person’s humanity and highlights that his or her bondage was involuntary. For narrative flow I also use “bondpeople,” and occasionally “slave,” to highlight period understandings of the racialized institution.

3. For the recent expanded definition of iconoclasm, see especially Stacy Boldrick, “Introduction: Breaking Images,” in Striking Images, Iconoclasms Past and Present, ed. Boldrick, Leslie Brubaker, and Richard Clay (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013), 1–12, esp. 2; and Stacy Boldrick and Richard Clay, introduction to Iconoclasm: Contested Objects, Contested Terms, ed. Boldrick and Clay (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007), 8–14. I am mindful of Walter Johnson’s critique of scholars’ sometimes ahistorical use of the terms agency and resistance; Johnson, “On Agency,” Journal of Social History 37, no. 1 (Autumn 2003): 113–24.

4. “The Dark Iconoclast,” Harper’s Weekly, March 25, 1865, 178a. For this incident and slaves’ actions in Charleston, see Maurie D. McInnis, The Politics of Taste in Antebellum Charleston (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), 327–32. For John C. Calhoun’s importance in Charleston, see Thomas J. Brown, Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 63–67; and McInnis, Politics of Taste, 151–59.

5. The best account of enslaved people’s destruction comes from Leon F. Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (New York: Vintage Books, 1980). While most scholars have overlooked slaves’ iconoclasm, an important exception is Maurie D. McInnis. I build on her work here. McInnis, “Raphaelle Peale’s Still Life with Oranges: Status, Ritual, and the Illusion of Mastery,” in Material Culture in Anglo-America: Regional Identity and Urbanity in the Tidewater, Lowcountry, and Caribbean, ed. David S. Shields (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2009), 324–25; and idem, Politics of Taste, 327–32.

6. New York Tribune, November 20, 1861, quoted in Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment (1964; reprint, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999), 107.

7. For self-emancipation, see especially Ira Berlin et al., Slaves No More: Three Essays on Emancipation and the Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); and Ira Berlin, “Emancipation and Its Meaning in American Life,” Reconstruction 2, no. 3 (1994): 35–44. For the messiness of emancipation, see Eric Fonor, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2014); and Patrick Rael, Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015).

8. Saidiya V. Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 115–206; and Dylan C. Penningroth, The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

9. An editorial in the Charleston Courier (August 4, 1860) referred to the inexpensive houses in Charleston Neck as “negro huts,” recalling the McGillivray family member’s reference. See McInnis, Politics of Taste, 190, and, for a description of this neighborhood, 190–94.

10. For the Civil War’s impact on Northern artists, see Eleanor Jones Harvey, The Civil War and American Art (New Haven: Yale University Press for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2012), 1–16. For looting by Northern troops, see Joan E. Cashin, “Trophies of War: Material Culture in the Civil War Era,” Journal of the Civil War Era 1, no. 3 (September 2011): 339–67, esp. 339, 344; Dana Byrd, “Loot, Occupy, Rebuild: The Plantation during the Civil War,” in The Civil War and the Material Culture of Texas, the Lower South, and the Southwest (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2012), 57–85, esp. 60–65; and J. Grahame Long, Stolen Charleston: The Spoils of War (Charleston: History Press, 2014). For artifacts taken from and returned to Arlington House, see Museum Collections: Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial (Hatboro, PA: Eastern National for National Park Service, 2008).

11. “The Dark Iconoclast,” 178a; and William Quayle, A Hero and Some Other Folks (Cincinnati: Western Methodist Book Concern, 1900), 182–83. An author in Harper’s Weekly labeled Thomas Carlyle a “terrible iconoclast” who “shattered ‘shams’ on every side.” Harper’s Weekly 11, no. 11 (1865): 708–9. See also OED Online, s.v. “iconoclast, n. (and adj.),” accessed February 1, 2016, Charles [Izard] Manigault, “Description of Our Family Portraits, (& Others.),” in “Description of Paintings at No. 6 Gibbes Street, Charleston, So. Ca., the Property of Charles Manigault, 1867,” MS, Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, transcribed by Scott Zetourer and edited by Alex Moore of the University of South Carolina Press, 13.

12. Harriott Cheves Leland and Harlan Greene, “‘Robbing the Owner or Saving the Property from Destruction?’: Paintings in the Middleton Place House,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 78, no. 2 (April 1977): 92–103; Henry Orlando Marcy, Diary of Dr. Henry Orlando Marcy, entries for February 23, 1865, April 11, 1865, photocopies in the curatorial office, Middleton Place Foundation, Charleston; and idem, “Autobiography of Henry Orlando Marcy” (provided by Henry Orlando Marcy IV), copies at Middleton Place Foundation.

13. Kate Stone, Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone 1861–1868, ed. John Q. Anderson (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1955), 203, 200. See also Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long, 141, and for similar examples, 123–41.

14. For the politically charged use of the term vandalism versus iconoclasm, see Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 22; and A. H. Merrills, “The Origins of ‘Vandalism,’” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 16, no. 2 (June 2009): 155–75. My effort to revisit the complex motivations of iconoclasts dovetails with scholars’ interest in recovering the resistance of subaltern peoples. See Matthew Liebmann, Revolt: An Archaeological History of Pueblo Resistance and Revitalization in 17th Century New Mexico (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012), 11–13.

15. For Southerners’ wartime fears of their slaves, see Marli F. Weiner, Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830–1880 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 167–70. Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” in The Portable Thomas Jefferson, ed. Merrill D. Peterson (New York: Penguin Books, 1975), 188; and Immanuel Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime, trans. John T. Goldthwaite (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 638. Simon Gikandi, Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 102–4, points out Kant’s indebtedness to David Hume’s earlier arguments on race.

16. For the undermining of the Confederacy from within by slaves, see especially Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 5.

17. Bruno Latour, “What Is Iconoclash? Or Is There a World beyond the Image Wars?,” in Iconoclash:Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art, ed. Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 14–37, esp. 14–15. John Peffer makes a similar point about the struggle to possess and make art in apartheid South Africa. Peffer, Art and the End of Apartheid (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), xvii.

18. Carolyn J. Weekley, Painters and Paintings in the Early American South (New Haven: Yale University Press for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2013), 226–47; and Jennifer Van Horn, “The Mask of Civility: Portraits of Colonial Women and the Transatlantic Masquerade,” American Art 23, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 8–35.

19. Maurie D. McInnis, “‘Picture Mania’: Collectors and Collecting in Charleston,” in Pursuit of Refinement: Charlestonians Abroad 1740–1860, by McInnis and Angela Mack (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999), 39–54; and idem, Politics of Taste, 300–307. On British display of portraits, see Marcia Pointon, Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 13–36; and Kate Redford, The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2006), 149–86. For an American context, see Margaretta M. Lovell, Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 10.

20. Maurie D. McInnis, “‘An Idea of Grandeur’: Furnishing the Classical Interior in Charleston, 1815–1840,” Historical Archaeology 33, no. 3 (1999): 32–47; and idem, Politics of Taste, 308–9. For the McGillivrays’ trades, see Bagget, Directory for the City of Charleston, for the Year 1852, 79; and Charleston City Directory (Charleston, 1872). The McGillivray house (ca. 1769) at 10 Atlantic Avenue survives. See “Atlantic Street,” Charleston County Public Library, accessed June 25, 2015,

21. For Charles Izard Manigault’s art collection, see McInnis, Politics of Taste, 308–11. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 5–9, 17–18. For Copley’s portrait, see Maurie D. McInnis, “Cultural Politics, Colonial Crisis, and Ancient Metaphor in John Singleton Copley’s Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Izard,” Winterthur Portfolio 34 (Summer–Autumn 1999): 85–108; and Theodore E. Stebbins Jr., “An American Despite Himself,” in John Singleton Copley in America, by Carrie Rebora Barratt et al. (New York: Harry N. Abrams for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996), 79–101, esp. 95–96. For West’s portrait, see McInnis and Mack, Pursuit of Refinement, 106–7. Claude Lorrain, Harbor Scene or Bay of Naples, is in the collection of Middleton Place Foundation.

22. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 1, 8–9. For it-narratives, see especially Christopher Flint, “Speaking Objects: The Circulation of Stories in Eighteenth-Century Prose Fiction,” PMLA 113, no. 2 (March 1998): 212–26; and Barbara M. Benedict, “The Spirit of Things,” in The Secret Life of Things: Animals, Objects, and It-Narratives in Eighteenth-Century England, ed. Mark Blackwell (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2007), 19–40. Charles Fraser, “The Fine Arts: A Reply to Article X. no. LVIII, in the North American Review, entitled ‘Academies of Arts,’ &c. by Samuel F. B. Morse, President of the National Academy of Design, New York. G. & C. Carvill, 1828,” Southern Review 4 (August 1829): 70–86, at 85. For Fraser’s arguments in the larger debate over the South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts, see McInnis, Politics of Taste, 147–50. For his career, see Martha R. Severens and Charles L. Wyrick Jr., eds., Charles Fraser of Charleston: Essays on the Man, His Art, and His Times (Charleston: Carolina Art Association, 1983). For West’s influences, see Sarah Lytle, “From Urbino to Middleton Place: The Pervasive Influence of Raphael,” Middleton Place Notebook 5, no. 4 (Winter 1983): 2–5; and McInnis and Mack, Pursuit of Refinement, 106.

23. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Life among the Lowly, ed. Christopher G. Diller (Buffalo, NY: Broadview Editions, 2009), 20; Mary Chestnut, entry of April 13, 1861, in Mary Chestnut’s Civil War, ed. C. Vann 
Woodward (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 48; and William Chambers, “Account of a Slave Auction (1853),” in A Documentary History of Slavery in North America, ed. Willie Lee Rose (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999), 150–51.

24. For the portrait of Charles Carter of Cleve, see Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Encyclopedia Virginia, accessed August 8, 2014, For the attribution to Charles Bridges, see Graham Hood, Charles Bridges and William Dering: Two Virginia Painters, 1735–1750 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1978), 70–73.

25. For the survival of West’s painting, see David L. Olin, “The Conservation Treatment of Benjamin West’s Portrait of the Middleton Family,” Collections: The Magazine of the Columbia Museum of Art & the Gibbes Planetarium 5, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 12–18, esp. 12. Williams Middleton to Dr. Henry Orlando Marcy, n.d. [November 1867], quoted in Leland and Greene, “‘Robbing the Owner,’” 98–99. Middleton was trying to negotiate the return of several paintings that Marcy had taken from Middleton Place while staying there as a doctor in the Union Army.

26. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 8–9. Louis Manigault mentioned having “brought to Augusta [Georgia, from Charleston] some family Silver, & c. My Wife’s costly portrait is also here, with my own.” James M. Clifton, Life and Labor on Argyle Island: Letters and Documents of a Savannah Rice Plantation, 1833–1867 (Savannah, GA: Beehive Press, 1978), 323.

27. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 4.

28. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, object files for 28.126.1 and .2. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 3. I am indebted to Conservator Nina Roth-Wells for discussing these paintings with me. It is possible that the white line running from Ann Ashby Manigault’s ear across her throat on the right side of the canvas is also a tear or a scratch, but it could be pentimenti related to the artist changing the line of the sitter’s lace bonnet. For that reason I have omitted it from discussion. Nina Roth-Wells, conversation with author, November 9, 2016.

29. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 3, 19, 21.

30. The Middleton family used the term “mutilated” to describe West’s painting of Arthur Middleton and his family. Elizabeth Izard Middleton and Joshua Francis Fisher to Williams Middleton, March 12, 1866, Middleton Place Papers, South Carolina Historical Society, photocopies in the collection of the curatorial office, Middleton Place Foundation. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 3, 19, 21.

31. For the destruction of houses and their contents as political and symbolic actions, see Robert Blair St. George, Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 289–92; and Governor Bernard to the Earl of Halifax, quoted in ibid., 292. For the violence against Loyalists’ possessions and their portraits during the American Revolution, see Katherine Rieder,“‘The Remainder of Our Effects We Must Leave Behind’: American Loyalists and the Meaning of Things, 1765–1800” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2009), 68–80. The defacement of portraits in the American Revolution is explored by Lauren Lessing, Nina Roth-Wells, and Terri Sabatos in their essay, “In Effigy: The Maiming of Colonial Portraits during the American Revolution,” in Beyond the Face: New Perspectives on Portraiture (London: D. Giles for the National Portrait Gallery, forthcoming).

32. For the political importance of iconoclasm aimed at portraits, see Gamboni, Destruction of Art, 28–32, 96. For iconoclasts’ treatment of paintings or sculptures as bodies, see C. Pamela Graves, “From an Archaeology of Iconoclasm to an Anthropology of the Body: Images, Punishment, and Personhood in England, 1500–1660,” Current Anthropology 49, no. 1 (February 2008): 35–60; Michael Taussig, Defacement: Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 53–55, 147; and Elizabeth Mansfield, “The New Iconoclasm,” Art Journal 64, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 27.

33. For Kuhn’s portrait, see especially Gikandi, Slavery and the Culture of Taste, 169–74. For Southerners’ association of slaves with animals and their treatment of slaves like animals, see Philip Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake & Lowcountry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1998), 271–72.

34. As Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby has noted, those opposed to the Republicans blackened Abraham Lincoln’s face on a carte de visite. Grigsby, Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 6–7.

35. Susan Juster, “Iconoclasm without Icons? The Destruction of Sacred Objects in Colonial North America,” in Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic, ed. Linda Gregerson and Juster (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 216–37, at 223; and John Walter, “‘Abolishing Superstition with Sedition’? The Politics of Popular Iconoclasm in England 1640–1642,” Past & Present 183 (May 2004): 86–87. For the 1846 ban against whipping white criminals, see McInnis, Politics of Taste, 226.

36. Po’pay’s orders, as reported by a Pueblo captive of the Spanish, can be found in Matthew Liebmann, “The Innovative Materiality of Revitalization Movements: Lessons from the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” American Anthropologist 110, no. 3 (September 2008): 360–72, at 363. For the other period descriptions of Pueblo iconoclasm, see Charles Wilson Hackett, ed., and Charmion Clair Shelby, trans., Revolt of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Otermin’s Attempted Reconquest, 1680–1682, 2 vols. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1942), 1:177–78, 2:230–31. For iconoclasm during the revolt, see Liebmann, Revolt, 60, 71–75. Of course, prior to contact with Europeans, native peoples had engaged in iconoclasm, and the Spanish wielded iconoclasm as a tool against indigenous art. See Megan E. O’Neil, “Marked Faces, Displaced Bodies: Monument Breakage and Reuse among the Classic-Period Maya,” in Boldrick et al., Striking Images, 47–64.

37. Benjamin L. Carp, Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party & the Making of America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 141–60; and Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 13.

38. McCurry, Confederate Reckoning, 233–38; and Manigault Plantation Journal, Gowrie and East Hermitage Plantations, reproduced in Clifton, Life and Labor on Argyle Island, 319–20.

39. Manigault Family Papers, no. 484, vol. 4, Southern Historical Collection, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A facsimile is viewable at
&CISOPTR=795, p. 79. Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer, Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013), 12–14; and Rachel Hall, “Missing Dolly, Mourning Slavery: The Slave Notice as Keepsake,” Camera Obscura 61, no. 1 (2006): 70–103. For an exploration of how masters used photographs of their slaves, see Laura Wexler, Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 60–74.

40. Marcus Wood, Blind Memory: Visual Representations of Slavery in England and America, 1780–1865 (New York: Routledge, 2000), 78–142.

41. Manigault Family Papers, no. 484, vol. 4; and Hall, “Missing Dolly,” 91–94. For the ways that the carte de visite became politically charged during the Civil War, see Grigsby, Enduring Truths, 3–10.

42. Charles Izard Manigault to Louis Manigault, January 18, 1861, in Clifton, Life and Labor on Argyle Island, 313. For the violence against portraits owned by Manigault’s niece (Mrs. Charlotte Morris Manigault), see Thomas Frank Gailor, Some Memories (Kingsport, TN: Southern Publishers, 1937), 132. For the destruction of Jefferson Davis’s portrait, see McCurry, Confederate Reckoning, 255–56; and Robert E. Melvin to Jefferson Davis, July 22, 1863, in Davis, The Papers of Jefferson Davis, vol. 9, ed. Lynda Lasswell Crist and Mary Seaton Dix (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997), 298–303, at 301.

43. Janet Duitsman Cornelius, “When I Can Read My Title Clear”: Literacy, Slavery, and Religion in the Antebellum South (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991). On Confederate fears over enslaved people’s information networks, see McCurry, Confederate Reckoning, 228–29.

44. Period observers quoted in Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2005), 112–15, at 112; and Hilary M. Beckles, “Inside Bussa’s Rebellion: Letters of Colonel John Rycroft Best,” Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society 37, no. 2 (1984): 101–11, at 106. For an analysis of the destruction, see Robert Morris, “The 1816 Uprising—A Hell-Broth,” Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society 46 (2000): 1–38.

45. My ideas about the ways that art produced by a dominant group can be subverted by an oppressed group through iconoclasm have been shaped by John Peffer’s discussion of artists’ detournément in apartheid South Africa. See Peffer, Art and the End of Apartheid, 222–23; and idem, “Censorship and Iconoclasm—Unsettling Monuments,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 48 (Autumn 2005): 45–60, esp. 45–50, 56–59.

46. For fire screens, see Thomas Sheraton, The Cabinet Dictionary (1803; repr. in 2 vols., New York: Praeger, 1970), 2:302. Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 117–35; and Igor Kopytoff, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 64–91, esp. 66–67.

47. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 4.

48. For a similar argument about the erasure of black bodies in the works produced by popular white artists, see Peffer, Art and the End of Apartheid, 223.

49. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 4. The Manigault portraits have been made smaller at some point (the top of the ovals in both paintings are missing). Originally, the central holes were likely at the bottom of the stretcher bar, which was probably used to rest the paintings on when they were hung up; otherwise the canvases would have torn. Nina Roth-Wells, conversation with author, November 9, 2016.

50. Thomas Chippendale, The Gentleman & Cabinet-maker’s Director (1762; repr., New York: Dover Publications, 1966), 24, description of pls. CXXIV–CXXVII, 24. For examples of fire screens, see Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye, New England Furniture: The Colonial Era (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984), 291–93. On the scarcity of newspaper, see Ellen Gruber Garvey, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 95–97.

51. My understanding of gentility has been shaped by Richard L. Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992). On enslaved men’s and women’s consumption and challenging of gentility, see especially Shane White and Graham White, Stylin’: African American Expressive Culture from Its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), 5–62; and Ann Smart Martin, “Suckey’s Looking Glass: African Americans as Consumers,” in Buying into the World of Goods: Early Consumers in Backcountry Virginia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 173–93. For owners’ dismayed responses, see White and White, Stylin’, 12–16; and McInnis, Politics of Taste, 241–42. For the active presence of the painting/artifact, see W. J. T. Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 28–56; Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 65–86; and Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 23–35.

52. For the importance of visuality in making and perpetuating a slave-holding society, see especially Jasmine Nichole Cobb, Picture Freedom: Remaking Black Visuality in the Early Nineteenth Century (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 28–65.

53. Williams Middleton to Dr. Henry Orlando Marcy, n.d. [November 1867], quoted in Leland and Greene, “‘Robbing the Owner,’” 101. On mimicry, see Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 85–92. For a similar argument about mimicry as parody of the ruling elites in the context of colonial Jamaica, see Kathleen Wilson, “The Performance of Freedom: Maroons and the Colonial Order in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica and the Atlantic Sound,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 66, no. 1 (January 2009): 45–86.

54. For the productive ways that nineteenth-century visual culture can be analyzed through humor, see Jennifer Greenhill, Playing It Straight: Art and Humor in the Gilded Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012). For the role that African American humor played in helping enslaved people survive, see especially Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 81–135, esp. 105–16; and Harry Oster, “Negro Humor: John & Old Marster,” and Bernard Wolfe, “Uncle Remus & the Malevolent Rabbit,” in Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore, ed. Alan Dundes (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990), 549–60, 524–40.

55. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 20–21. Maurie McInnis also discusses the unnamed driver’s actions, though she focuses on their political implications. McInnis, “Raphaelle Peale’s Still Life with Oranges,” 324–25; and idem, Politics of Taste, 330–32. For Sully’s portrait, see Gibbes Museum of Art’s “People’s Choice,” accessed November 17, 2013,
/portfolioentry/charles-izard-manigault/. For this portrait and its relation to Manigault’s larger art collection, see McInnis, Politics of Taste, 308–11.

56. An Overseer, “On the Conduct and Management of Overseers, Driver, and Slave,” Southern Agriculturalist 9 (May 1836): 225–31, esp. 227–28; and Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 21. For drivers’ jobs on the Manigault plantations, see Clifton, Life and Labor on Argyle Island, xxi–xxxi. For Driver John, see William Capers (overseer) to Charles Manigault, November 14, 1861, in ibid., 325; and Louis Manigault to Charles Manigault, November 24, 1861, in ibid., 328.

57. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 20–21. For the idea of competency in the use of objects as separable from ownership, see Bernard L. Herman, Townhouse: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1780–1830 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American Culture, 2005), 200–201.

58. Thomas R. Elliott to his mother, Anna Hutchinson Smith Elliott, November 11, 1861, quoted in Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction, 107. For genteel goods enforcing whiteness, see Bridget T. Heneghan, Whitewashing America: Material Culture and Race in the Antebellum Imagination (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2003), 3–43. For African Americans’ seizure of goods, especially pianos, see Byrd, “Loot, Occupy, Rebuild,” 63.

59. Harper’s Weekly, January 18, 1862. See also Byrd, “Loot, Occupy, Rebuild,” 62–63.

60. For planters’ complaints about “Negro balls,” see Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long, 141. The original sketch is by George Roupell, Peter Manigault and His Friends, ca. 1754, Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware, acc. no. 1963.73. For this sketch and the work that such enslaved domestics performed in Charleston, see McInnis, “Raphaelle Peale’s Still Life with Oranges,” 314, 322–23; and Elizabeth L. O’Leary, At Beck and Call: The Representations of Domestic Servants in Nineteenth-Century American Painting (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996), 23–25. For Louis Manigault’s copy, see Weekley, Painters and Paintings, 156–57.

61. The scholarship on affect continues to grow exponentially. I have found the following to be particularly helpful: Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 1–7; Lawrence Grossberg, “Affect’s Future: Recovering the Virtual in the Actual,” and Sara Ahmed, “Happy Objects,” in The Affect Theory Reader, ed. Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth (Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 309–38, 29–51, esp. 37–39.

62. Juan Francisco Manzano, Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated; Translated from the Spanish, by R. R. Madden, M.D., with the History of the Early Life of the Negro Poet, Written by Himself (London: T. Ward, 1840), at Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001, See also Elaine Freedgood, The Ideas in Things: Fugitive Meaning in the Victorian Novel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 51.

63. For cleaning paintings, see Marion Cabell Tyree, ed., Housekeeping in Old Virginia (Louisvillle, KY, 1878), 497–99. For Monday, see Johnson, Soul by Soul, 21, 205–6. Catherine Cornolius[?], West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, Slave Interviews, in Marcus Bruce Christian Collection, Department of Archives and Manuscripts, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans. I have drawn on the Louisiana slave interviews in particular because of the interviewees’ exceptional honesty, encouraged in part by black interviewers; see Joan Redding, “The Dillard Project: The Black Unit of the Louisiana Writers’ Project,” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 32, no. 1 (Winter 1991): 47–62.

64. Laura S. Haviland, A Woman’s Life Work: Labors and Experiences of Laura S. Haviland (Cincinnati: Walden & Stowe, 1882), 273–76, at 274, 276; and Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long, 114.

65. Myron E. Goble, Down in the Delta: A Screenplay (New York: Hyperion, 1998), 139–42. See also Huey Copeland, Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 51. For the film’s conservativeness, see Paula J. Massood, Black City Cinema: African American Urban Experiences in Film (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003), 211–18. Martha Stuart, Black Creek, Louisiana, Slave Interviews, in Christian Collection.

66. The flour sack is in the collection of the Middleton Place Foundation and is now on exhibit at the National Museum of African American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. See Leslie Cantu, “Local Artifact to Be Displayed in New Smithsonian Museum,” Journal Scene, December 30, 2015, accessed January 3, 2016, For its authenticity, see Mark Auslander, “Slavery’s Traces: In Search of Ashley’s Sack,” Southern Spaces Blog, accessed November 30, 2016,

67. For African Americans’ Christian religious practices in Charleston, see Bernard Edward Powers, Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822–1885 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994), 20–22; and McInnis, Politics of Taste, 210. Louisa Sidney Martin, Maigewood Plantation, Louisiana, Slave Interviews, in Christian Collection. For the ties between politics and religion, see Harvey, Civil War and American Art, 213. Catherine Cornolius[?], Slave Interviews in Christian Collection; and Marcy, Diary of Dr. Henry Orlando Marcy, entry for February 12, 1865.

68. For burning as slave punishment in South Carolina, see especially Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, 264–65; and Lowry Ware, “The Burning of Jerry: The Last Slave Execution by Fire in South Carolina?,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 91, no. 2 (April 1990): 100–106. Martha Stuart, Black Creek, Louisiana, Slave Interviews, in Christian Collection; slave owner, quoted in Penningroth, Claims of Kinfolk, 57; Sheraton, The Cabinet Dictionary, 2:302; and Radwinter quotation in Walter, “‘Abolishing Superstition with Sedition’?,” 86–87. For the biblical associations of burning images, see ibid., 86.

69. For African spiritual traditions in the Upper South, as recovered through archaeology, see Patricia M. Samford, Subfloor Pits and the Archaeology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007). For Gullah culture, see especially Michael Montgomery, ed., Crucible of Carolina: Essays in the Development of Gullah Language and Culture (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994); and Philip Morgan, ed., Race in the Atlantic World, 1700–1900: African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry; The Atlantic World and the Gullah Geechee (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010). For the religious traditions of the Gullah, see especially Erskine Clarke, “‘They Shun the Scrutiny of White Men’: Reports on Religion from the Georgia Lowcountry and West Africa, 1834–1850,” in ibid., 132–50. Charles C. Jones, The Religious Instruction of the Negroes, in the United States (Savannah, 1842), 127–28, at Documenting the American South,; and “Journal of a Missionary to the Negroes in the State of Georgia,” Charleston Observer, September 21, 1833, quoted in Clarke, “‘They Shun the Scrutiny of White Men,’” 137.

70. Olaudah Equiano, The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African: Written by himself (Dublin, 1791), 59–60. While scholars have brought parts of Equiano’s narrative into question, it remains a valuable source; see Vincent Caretta, “Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa? New Light on an Eighteenth-Century Question of Identity,” Slavery & Abolition 20, no. 3 (December 1999): 96–105.

71. My understanding of the persistence of African spiritual traditions in colonial America and the United States and the practices and beliefs involved in Vodun have been shaped by Robert Ferris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy (New York: Vintage Books, 1984); and Suzanne Preston Blier, African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). For fire, see Blier, African Vodun, 78–79, 291–93. For a similar analysis of a genteel artifact and its possible spiritual uses, see Martin, “Suckey’s Looking Glass,” 173–93.

72. For wrapping in Vodun, see Blier, African Vodun, 80–82; and Thompson, Flash of the Spirit, 117–31. For appropriation of an object’s power, see Blier, African Vodun, 115–30. For voodoo of the photograph, see Lyle Saxon, Edward Dryer, and Robert Tallant, Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales (New York: Bonanza Books, 1982), 538. The work is based on interviews of ­former slaves conducted by the Louisiana Writers’ Project.

73. For the uniqueness of the Gullahs’ experiences on the Sea Islands during and after the war, see Byrd, “Loot, Occupy, Rebuild,” 65–81. Matthew Grant, near Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, born 1867, in Genevieve W. Chandler, comp., Coming Through: Voice of a South Carolina Gullah Community from WAP Oral History, ed. Kincaid Mills, Genevieve C. Peterkin, and Aaron McCullough (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008), 71.

74. Gullah descendant, quoted in Chandler, Coming Through, 128–30; and McInnis, Politics of Taste, 273–76. For the racial politics that informed the photographs of George and H. P. Cook (father and son, ), see Wexler, Tender Violence, 74–93.

75. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 4, 9, 21.

76. For the family history surrounding the portrait of North Carolina planter Charles Lewis Hinton, see Godfrey Cheshire, Moving Midway (New York: First Run Features, 2007). Williams Middleton to Dr. Henry Orlando Marcy, n.d. [November 1867], quoted in Leland and Greene, “‘Robbing the Owner,’” 101. For Selena Gray’s actions, see Museum Collections: Arlington House, 40–43.

77. The attempts of whites to cast slavery as a positive institution in which those of both races thrived have been studied by a number of scholars. See especially Stephanie E. Yuhl, A Golden Haze of Memory: The Making of Historic Charleston (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); and Karen L. Cox, Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). For Manigault’s scrapbook as a site of longing, see Hall, “Missing Dolly,” 94–98. On Confederate supporters making scrapbooks, see Garvey, Writing with Scissors, 90–130.

78. Manigault, “Description of Paintings,” 21, and for his account of taking the paintings to Paris to be conserved in 1855, 3.

79. Simon Cane and Jonathan Ashley-Smith, “Iconoclasm as Conservation, Concealment and Subversion,” in Boldrick et al., Striking Images, 183–98. For destruction in the conservation of paintings, see Joyce Hill Stoner, “Hell vs. Ruhemann, the Metaphysical and the Physical: Controversies about the Cleaning of Paintings,” in Past Practice—Future Prospects, ed. Andrew Oddy and Sandra Smith (London: British Museum, 2001), 109–14. Williams Middleton to Elizabeth Izard Middleton and Joshua Francis Fisher, February 25, 1866, March 1, 1866, July 16, 1867, October 24, 1870; Elizabeth Izard Middleton and Joshua Francis Fisher to Williams Middleton, February 25, 1866, February 17, 1871, Middleton Place Papers.

80. The painting is displayed in the Carolyn and Mike McNamara Southern Masterworks Gallery at MESDA. See “MESDA Uses 21st-Century Tech to Showcase History of Southern Life,” Winston-Salem Journal, December 19, 2015, accessed January 15, 2016, For Joseph Downs’s statement as well as the response of Southern collectors and museums, see Luke Beckerdite, introduction to American Furniture 1997, the Chipstone Foundation, For the complexity of Southern identity as expressed through Southern material culture, see Jonathan Prown, “‘A Preponderance of Pineapples’: The Problem of Southern Furniture,” American Furniture 1997, the Chipstone Foundation,“Preponderance-of-Pineapples”:-The-Problem-of-Southern-Furniture.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Jennifer Van Horn

JENNIFER VAN HORN, an assistant professor of art history and history at the University of Delaware, specializes in ­American art and material culture. Her first book, The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America, was published recently by the University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute [Department of Art History, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716,].

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