According to our history books, slavery in the United States was abolished in 1865. However, Wall Street Journal writer Douglas Blackmon revealed in his 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re- Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, this was not the case for thousands of Americans. One hundred and fifty years following the supposed eradication of slavery, Telfair Museums presents Slavery by Another Name: Paintings and Assemblages by Robert Claiborne Morris, an exhibition that explores this period of our history in which hundreds of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested and sold into forced labor.
On display at the Telfair Academy beginning January 6, this exhibition holds historic significance for Savannah and the South. The show opens January 6, with a special program featuring a sneak peek of award-winning director Sam Pollard’s PBS documentary about Blackmon’s book followed by a question-andanswer session with Blackmon, Pollard and Morris.
Morris, who worked as a journalist for many years, was inspired by an early draft of Blackmon’s book and began searching the Georgia Historical Society’s archives for evidence of re-enslavement. Upon discovering a wealth of proof, he began to move away from the landscapes he had painted for much of his life and toward subject matter with a weightier significance.
As an exhibition, Slavery by Another Name: Paintings and Assemblages by Robert Claiborne Morris began as a small show accompanying a book signing at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum in 2009.
The opening at the Telfair will be the culmination of four years of work, much of which hasn’t been seen before—the collection now consists of 32 pieces ranging from six inches to six feet in size.
Telfair Owens-Thomas House and Morris explores the themes of re-enslavement through a variety of media and materials that incorporate painting, welding, photography, historical objects, and items representative of the period between the 1860s and the 1920s.
Most examples are painted on burlap or wood, while many of the portraits are painted over historical photographs superimposed onto canvas. It is Morris’s wish that this exciting tour de force of words, film, and visual art will inspire viewers who may not have read Blackmon’s book to reflect on this recently exposed period of history and see how it fits into our nation’s discourse.