The first item I chose to create in Omeka was this watercolor painting of a Capoeira scene. The creator of this painting was Augustus Earle. This specific image intrigued me because initially, it looked like it was a scene of two men that were dancing. After researching what capoeira was, I learned it was a type of martial art that uses different techniques of kicks and headbutts while emphasizing “deception, flexibility, and fluidity” (1). Enslaved people used capoeira to display their feelings and emotions and also reflect the movements of animals as a way to intimidate enslavers. Aside from the two main men in this painting, there is also man playing the drum off to the side, and he is providing the music for the capoeira performance. The white policeman looks as if he coming to break up the men dancing, stopping the enslaved people from having any kind of fun. This painting is very intriguing and arises some questions for me. Did the enslavers know the reason behind the practicing of capoeira? Besides capoeira, what other techniques did enslaved people practice to use against their enslavers? Was capoeira limited to men, or did women engage in this martial art as well?
The second item I chose is called “A prayer”, written by a student, Benjamin Brawley, from Atlanta Baptist College in 1899. This prayer was a heartfelt response to the racial troubles in Georgia. Reading the verses of this prayer emphasizes the tragedy that enslaved people lived through, although it was already apparent. Reading their cry for help from God, not only to save them from the horrible lifestyles they have put forced into, but “[to] live in harmony and peace” shows how selfless the enslaved people were (2). They did not want to be better than anyone, they just wanted to be treated like humans and have a fair opportunity in society. No matter how horribly they were treated, they proclaimed for peace and love among all people. This prayer is beautifully written by Brawley and I wish there were a way to hear the music written by Arthur H. Ryder. As a Catholic myself, I always find beauty and wholesomeness in another’s love and devotion towards God. As violent and messy the history of slavery is, it is very heartwarming to find sources like this one that show how devoted people are to the word of God, regardless of the life they live. Enslaved people have witnessed and experienced the worst violence imaginable, but they still praise the word of God and are hopeful for a brighter day where blacks and whites can live in a society as one. This piece has touched my heart and makes me wonder the life behind the author, Benjamin Brawley. What was his upbringing like? What was his family like? Did he get to know his family, or was he forcefully separated from them?
- (1) “What Is Capoeira Angola?” Capoeira Information, tulane.edu/~capoeira/info.htm.
- (2) Ryder, A. H, Benjamin Brawley, and Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection. A Prayer. [Atlanta, Ga.: Atlanta Baptist College Press, 1899] Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/91757168/>.