Thursday, March 5, 2015

....Wait who actually is he?

We've all been posting on the blog three times a week since August, and we've become accustomed to seeing this photograph:

But, has anyone ever wondered who this man was? We can finally make a connected with the Toni Morrison quote that's been at the top of the blog for months, now it's time to learn about Gordon. Gordon fled his plantation home in March of 1836 after getting a severe whipping to his back. While he was recovering in bed, he planned his escape. When he left, the plantation owner and some neighbors attempted to trace him with bloodhounds, but Gordon was prepared. He rubbed onions all over his body to throw the dogs off scent. It worked! He escaped and made it to the Union Army in Baton Rouge after traveling over 80 miles. At this time, he was fatigued and badly bruised, but he decided to enlist in the Union Army. At this time, Lincoln had recently decided to allow Blacks to serve in the army in segregated units.  Gordon was one of 200,000 Blacks who were at the front of one movement, and I think that is pretty cool. Now, time to understand the reasoning behind this photo. When Gordon when in for his physical to join the army, he was asked to reveal his wound from his harsh treatment on the plantation. The two men that photographed him, McPherson and Oliver, soon sold mass quantities of the photo in the format of a carte-de-viste, a popular way of formatting at the time. His photograph was a hit with doctors, photographers and abolitionist around the country. Everyone was spreading the image around, and it was featured in Harper's Weekly  on July 4, 1863 along with two other images of Gordon. Records of him during the Civil War are scarce, and what became of him is unknown. We can still appreciate him, his Louisiana roots, and how he served as the truthful image of what slavery was in America at this time. 

Sources: http://usslave.blogspot.com/2011/10/whipping-scars-on-back-of-fugitive.html
http://abhmuseum.org/2013/07/the-scourged-back-how-runaway-slave-and-soldier-private-gordon-changed-history/

Other photographs in Harper's Weekly

 "In his uniform as a U.S. soldier"
 "Gordon As He Entered Uur Lines"



1 comment:

Iris Mire said...

I think it's really cool that you found out who this guy actually is. We talk all the time about how slaves were robbed of their identity so I think it's important that we know who this guy is. We have all cringed at the picture that we have seen all year, but we never took the time to think about Gordon as an individual and not just a symbol for the plight of the slaves.