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The Lord Is My Shepherd

1863 Eastman Johnson Born: Lovell, Maine 1824 Died: New York, New York 1906 oil on wood 16 5/8 x 13 1/8 in. (42.3 x 33.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan 1979.5.13 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing


Gallery Label

Eastman Johnson painted The Lord Is My Shepherd only months after the Emancipation Proclamation of New Year's Day, 1863. The image of a humble black man reading from his Bible was reassuring to white Americans uncertain of what to expect from the freed slaves. But the simple act of reading was itself a political issue. Emancipation meant that blacks must educate themselves in order to be productive, responsible citizens. In the slaveholding South, teaching a black person to read had been a crime; in the North, the issue was not "May they read?" but "They must read."

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Ethnic - African-American

Figure male

Figure(s) in interior - domestic

Recreation - leisure - reading

Religion - Christianity

painting

paint - oil

wood

About Eastman Johnson

Born: Lovell, Maine 1824 Died: New York, New York 1906

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Eastman Johnson

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