The Lord Is My Shepherd

Media - 1979.5.13 - SAAM-1979.5.13_1 - 80087
Copied Eastman Johnson, The Lord Is My Shepherd, 1863, oil on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan, 1979.5.13
Free to use

Artwork Details

Title
The Lord Is My Shepherd
Date
1863
Dimensions
16 5813 18 in. (42.333.2 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan
Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on fiberboard
Classifications
Keywords
  • Figure male
  • African-American
  • Religion — Christianity
  • African American
Object Number
1979.5.13

Artwork Description

Eastman Johnson painted The Lord Is My Shepherd only months after the Emancipation Proclamation of New Year's Day, 1863. The image of a humble black man reading from his Bible was reassuring to white Americans uncertain of what to expect from the freed slaves. But the simple act of reading was itself a political issue. Emancipation meant that blacks must educate themselves in order to be productive, responsible citizens. In the slaveholding South, teaching a black person to read had been a crime; in the North, the issue was not "May they read?" but "They must read."

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

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