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Decorative Arts and Design

This wood cane displays the transference of a historical African form and technique, the staff carved with a spiraling narrative, to the Americas. Probably made by an as-yet unidentified Black craftsperson, the cane exhibits embellishments that express African American concerns following the Civil War. At the bottom, Africans are brought in chains to the United States; above, Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, and the chains are broken as Liberty leads the way under the American eagle.
CULTURE American
MEDIUM Wood, metal
  • Place Made: United States
  • DATES 1865–1900
    DIMENSIONS 35 x 4 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. (88.9 x 11.4 x 3.8cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund and A. Augustus Healy Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Wooden walking cane or staff, commemorative of the Emancipation Proclamation. Narrow cylindrical form tapers toward bottom; handle grip is a carved eagle holding an olive branch; upper half of cane is carved with relief decorations; lower portion is smooth with tip sheathed in metal. Carved decorations around upper portion consist of four bands which tell the story of slavery and emancipation, from bottom to top: invaders with crosses enslave Africans; slave ship traveling to America; allegorical female figure of Liberty with sword (symbolizing the Civil War) and an eagle holding banner inscribed "Liberty"; Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation and a slave freed from a whipping post holding a banner that reads, "Be it known that all men shall be free!"
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION American. Cane, 1865–1900. Wood, metal, 35 x 4 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. (88.9 x 11.4 x 3.8cm). Brooklyn Museum, Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund and A. Augustus Healy Fund, 1996.179. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1996.179_colorcrrected_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 1996.179_colorcrrected_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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