1939: Revolt

Hale Woodruff’s murals commemorating the revolt on the Spanish slave ship Amistad were installed in Talladega College’s Savery Library in 1939, the centennial of the uprising.

The first mural depicts the moment when, on or about July 1, 1839, kidnapped captives aboard the Amistad rebelled against their captors, killing the captain and some crew members before finally gaining control of the ship.

Through deception by the navigator, whose life the rebels  had spared, the ship arrived not back in their home country of Mendiland (in modern-day Sierra Leone), but in the USA—setting off the first civil rights court case in the country (shown in the second mural). The Mende faced possible execution if convicted of mutiny, but ultimately, the US Supreme Court ruled that they had rebelled in self-defense and ordered them freed.  Thirty-five survivors made their way back to Africa a year later—the scene of the third mural.

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1933: Dreams of the Third Reich

The Third Reich - No (1920-1940)

A selection from Charlotte Beradt’s Dreams of the Third Reich.

Beradt was a journalist in Germany when Hitler took power and, inspired by the first dream below “set out to collect the dreams the Nazi regime had generated”—which she did until she left the country in 1939.  She published a few of them in 1943, in an article called “Dreams under Dictatorship,” but the book was not published until 1966. She notes that she “deliberately omitted all dreams involving violence or any physical expression of fear” and provides one short example: I awoke bathed in sweat. As had happened many nights before, I had been shot at, martyred, and scalped—had run for my life with blood streaming and teeth knocked out, Storm Troopers constantly on my heels.

I have included the date where Beradt provides it and her description of the dreamer.

(1933), “a man of about sixty and the owner of a middle-sized factory”:

Goebbels was visiting my factory. He had all the workers line up in two rows facing each other. I had to stand in the middle and raise my arm in the Nazi salute. It took me half an hour to get my arm up, inch by inch. Goebbels showed neither approval nor disapproval as he watched my struggle, as if it were a play. When I finally managed to get my arm up, he said just five words—”I don’t want your salute”—then turned and went to the door. There I stood in my own factory, arm raised, pilloried right in the midst of my own people. I was only able to keep from collapsing by staring at his clubfoot as he limped out. And so I stood until I woke up.

(1934), “a forty-five-year-old doctor”:

It was about nine o’clock in the evening. My consultations were over, and I was just stretching out on the couch to relax with a book on Matthias Grünewald, when suddenly the walls of my room and then my apartment disappeared. I looked around and discovered to my horror that as far as the eye could see no apartment had walls any more. Then I heard a loudspeaker boom, “According to the decree of the 17th of this month on the Abolition of Walls…”

(1933), “a cultivated, pampered, liberal-minded woman of some thirty years, with no profession”:

First dream: In place of the street signs which had been abolished, posters had been set up on every corner, proclaiming in white letters on a black background the twenty words people were not allowed to say. The first was “Lord”—to be on the safe side I must have dreamt it in English. I don’t recall the following words and possibly didn’t even dream them, but the last one was “I.”

Second dream: I was sitting in a box at the opera, dressed in a new gown, and with my hair beautifully done. It was a huge opera house with many, many tiers, and I was enjoying considerable admiration. They were presenting my favorite opera, The Magic Flute. When it came to the line, “That is the devil certainly,” a squad of policemen came stomping in and marched directly up to me. A machine had registered the fact that I had thought of Hitler on hearing the word “devil.” I imploringly searched the festive crowd for some sign of help, but they all just sat there staring straight ahead, silent and expressionless, not one showing even pity. The old gentleman in an adjoining box looked kind and distinguished, but when I tried to catch his eye he spat at me.

Third dream: I knew that all books were being collected and burned. Not wanting to part with the old pencil- marked copy of Don Carlos I had had ever since schooldays, I hid it under the maid’s bed. But when the Storm Troopers came to take away the books, they marched, feet stomping, straight to the maid’s room…They pulled the book out from under the bed and threw it on the truck that was to take it to the bonfire.

At that point I discovered that I had only hidden an atlas and not my Don Carlos —and still I stood by with a guilty feeling and let them take it away.

(1933), “an elderly woman mathematics teacher”:

It was forbidden under penalty of death to write down anything concerned with mathematics. I took refuge in a night club (never in my life have I set foot in such a place). Drunks staggered around, the waitresses were half naked, and the music was deafening. I took a piece of tissue paper out of my pocketbook and proceeded to write down a couple of equations in invisible ink, and was frightened to death.

Continue reading

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1639: Thoughts

John Constable - Clouds (1822)

From a letter written by James Howell, 17 March 1639:

Having got into a close field, I cast my face upward, and…began to contemplate as I was in this posture the vast magnitude of the universe and what proportion this poor globe of earth might bear with it, for if those numberless bodies which stick in the vast roof of heaven, though they appear to us but as spangles, be some of them thousands of times bigger than the earth—take the sea with it to boot, for they both make but one sphere, surely the astronomers had reason to term this sphere an indivisible point and a thing of no dimension at all being compared to the whole world. I fell then to think that at the second general destruction, it is no more for God Almighty to fire this earth than for us to blow up a small squib or rather one small grain of gunpowder.

As I was musing thus, I spied a swarm of gnats waving up and down the air about me which I knew to be part of the universe as well as I; and methought it was a strange opinion of our Aristotle to hold that the least of those small insected ephemerans should be more noble than the sun, because it had a sensitive soul in it. I fell to think that the same proportion which those animalillios bore with me in point of bigness, the same I held with those glorious spirits which are near the Throne of the Almighty, what then should we think of the magnitude of the Creator Himself: doubtless it is beyond the reach of any human imagination to conceive it. In my private devotions I presume to compare Him to a great mountain of light, and my soul seems to discern some glorious form therein, but suddenly as she would fix her eyes upon the object, her sight is presently dazzled and disgregated with the refulgency and coruscations thereof.

Walking a little farther I espied a young boisterous bull breaking over hedge and ditch to a herd of kine in the next pasture, which made me think that if that fierce strong animal with others of that kind knew their own strength, they would never suffer man to be their master. Then looking upon them quietly grazing up and down, I fell to consider that the flesh which is daily dished upon our tables is but concocted grass, which is recarnified in our stomachs and transmuted to another flesh. I fell also to think what advantage those innocent animals had of man, which, as soon as nature cast them into the world, find their meat dressed, the cloth laid, and the table covered; they find their drink brewed and the buttery open, their beds made and their clothes ready; and though man hath the faculty of reason to make him a compensation for the want of those advantages, yet this reason brings with it a thousand perturbations of mind and perplexities of spirit, griping cares and anguishes of thought, which those harmless silly creatures were exempted from.

Going on, I came to repose myself upon the trunk of a tree, and I fell to consider further what advantage that dull vegetable had of those feeding animals, as not to be so troublesome and beholding to nature, nor to be so subject to starving, to diseases, to the inclemency of the weather, and to be far longer lived. I then espied a great stone, and sitting a while upon it, I fell to weigh in my thoughts that that stone was in a happier condition in some respects than either those sensitive creatures or vegetables I saw be- fore, in regard that that stone, which propagates by assimilation, as the philosophers say, needed neither grass nor hay, or any aliment for restoration of nature, nor water to refresh its roots or the heat of the sun to attract the moisture upwards to increase growth as the other did. As I directed my pace homeward, I espied a kite soaring high in the air, and gently gliding up and down the clear region so far above my head, that I fell to envy the bird extremely and repine at his happiness that he should have a privilege to make a nearer approach to heaven than I.

John Constable: Cloud Study (1822)

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1918: Munitions Girls

Stanhope Forbes - The Munitions Girls (1918)

Stanhope Forbes: The Munitions Girls (1918)

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1900: Triptych

Constantin Meunier - Mine Triptych (Descent, Calvary, Ascent) (c 1900)

Constantin Meunier: Mine Triptych (Descent, Calvary, Ascent) (c. 1900)

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1885: Foundry

P. S. Krøyer - The Iron Foundry, Burmeister and Wain (1885)

P. S. Krøyer: The Iron Foundry, Burmeister and Wain (1885)

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1971: Kirby

Kirby Portfolio (1971)

Jack Kirby: page from A “King” Kirby Portfolio (1971)

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1967: Alice in Wonderland


The 1967 report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders opens with a now-famous conclusion: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal.” The closing of the report is less well known:

One of the first witnesses to be invited to appear before this Commission was Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, a distinguished and perceptive scholar. Referring to the reports of earlier riot commissions, he said: “I read that report. . . of the 1919 riot in Chicago, and it is as if I were reading the report of the investigating committee on the Harlem riot of ’35, the report of the investigating committee on the Harlem riot of ’43, the report of the McCone Commission on the Watts riot. I must again in candor say to you members of this Commission–it is a kind of Alice in Wonderland–with the same moving picture re-shown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendations, and the same inaction.”

Image: Detroit, 1967

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1802: The Eagle

William Blake - Headpiece to The Eagle, Ballad the Second (William Hayley's Ballads. Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals) (1802)

William Blake: Headpiece to “The Eagle,” an illustration for William Hayley’s Ballads Founded on Anecdotes Relating to Animals (1802).

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1966: Dublin Sky

Evelyn Hofer - Dublin Sky (1966)

Evelyn Hofer: Dublin Sky (1966); from Dublin: A Portrait (1967).

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