In “Slaves Waiting for Sale,” artist Erye Crowe depicted a black slave market in a way that people had never seen before. Instead of the well-rehearsed, comfortable image of the white auctioneer selling off humans like animals, he depicted the slaves moments before reaching the platform–slaves as people, with mothers and daughters and sons and fathers and as families that were about to be shattered at the hands of the wealthy. “In Crow’s painting, the viewer is forced to consider the slave trade not just in the abstract but instead to recognize that it happened to individual[s]…” (McInnis, pg 8).
One thing that I found incredibly interesting was McInnis’ illustration of slavery and war in the same sentence. “Just as the viewing public could not know the outcome of the war unfolding before them, the slaves in Crowe’s painting could not know what fate held in store for them” (McInnis, pg 8). Placing slavery and war with one another heightens the risk of both events. I had never thought of slavery being like the uncertainty of war–war affects everyone; it’s easy to be afraid of war. But translating that same fear of war into the fear of being sold as a slave, away from family, into violence, into an unstable environment with harsh physical and mental consequences really heightened the imagery of Crowe’s art.
On page 9, McInnis talks about how even though many won’t understand the struggles of slavery, artists and authors have to try. How can we be tasteful yet accurate in depicting the early struggles that need to be confronted without appropriation, disrespect, and inaccuracies?
Michaela Stock, Hope College 2020