Rising to Freedom
The enslaved in the Americas always had their mind on freedom. From the many slave petitions before the war for American independence, to the practices of freedom during the period of Black Reconstruction, the arc of freedom inspired the slave in North America. In the Caribbean, maroonage, the Haitian revolution and numerous revolts opened up both new definitions and possibilities of what freedom practices might look like. In Brazil from the 17th century formation of Quilombo dos Palmares freedom was a possibility for which many struggled.
In designing our new home we spent a great deal of time thinking about how to make this extraordinary struggle of the enslaved for freedom integral to the building. The glass wall, Rising to Freedom depicts the movement from slavery to forms of freedom with a series of iconic images. As we walk up the stairs from the bowels of a slave ship through emancipation and the search for freedom, to the protest marches for rights in the mid-20th century, we pause at the birds in flight. They are in flight to somewhere else—to freedom. This rising glass wall does not tell a final story but rather leaves it open for another passage for us all to go through towards freedom. Rising to Freedom is about a continuous quest to be free.
Rising to Freedom Image Credits (from bottom)
Lt. Francis Meynell, Royal Navy, artist, Slave Deck of the Albatroz, watercolor, 1845. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Joseph Holston, After Harriet, acrylic on canvas, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist.
Moneta Sleet Jr. (American, 1926–1996), Rosa Parks, Dr. and Mrs. Abernathy, Dr. Ralph Bunche, and Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading marchers into Montgomery, gelatin silver print, 133⁄8 x 103⁄4 in. (34 x 27.3 cm), 1965, printed circa 1970. Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of the Johnson Publishing Company, 426:1991. Courtesy of the Johnson Publishing Company, LLC.