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Perseverance is King.

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” ― Winston S. Churchill, “Never Give In!” The Best of Winston Churchill's Speeches.

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Here is an example of persistence from the book Uncle T and the Uppity Spy. A black pastor honors Thomas Stonewall Jackson. This pastor, Reverend Downing, is the son of Jim Lewis and the nephew of Tyler Lewis. The pastor’s message to his congregation was to emphasize the merits of perseverance and commitment and to teach them about the struggle to erect a fitting tribute to his father’s favorite Civil War hero, General “Stonewall” Jackson. The pastor found it took great courage to persist in the undertaking, as it was opposed by other black groups of the time. 

Downing strongly believed that had he been seeking to honor Abraham Lincoln, things would have been very different. There would have been gifts and donations, in spite of the fact that at the beginning of the war, Abraham Lincoln had been reluctant to make ending slavery a primary war aim. What was more, Lincoln’s favorite Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, had owned a few slaves before the war. Few truly understood Reverend Lilburn L. Downing’s cause, and he was greatly ridiculed for his actions. Yet the pastor continued to relate to his Sunday Bible class the story of his father’s Confederate hero and the deep and close relationship the two men, black and white, shared.

On this day, Pastor Reverend Lilburn L. Downing, whose father had been Jim Lewis and his uncle Tyler Lewis, was celebrating the birthday of his father’s Confederate Civil War hero, Stonewall Jackson. The reverend looked up again at the stained glass window that had been made in the general’s honor. He began to tell the tale of the orphaned twin slave boys who had belonged to General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson of Lexington County, Virginia, who was a constable of Lewis County, an instructor of artillery tactics, and a member of the Lexington Presbyterian Church.    Please CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text is from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy that inspired this painting:

 

The Promotion

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Some black men volunteered to fight for the Confederacy out of loyalty to their homeland. For example, a militia of 440 free black men formed up in Louisiana and vowed to put their lives on the line to save the Confederacy from the Union power. 

At the same time, slaves had been fleeing behind Union lines since early in the war. Some stayed with the army and helped out. Then black soldiers were mustered for the Union army as part of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. In 1864, close to the end of the war, such luminaries of the Confederacy as Major-General Patrick Cleburne (the "Stonewall of the West," Jefferson Davis (the president of the Confederacy) and Robert E. Lee (the commander of the CSA's armed forces) agreed that slaves should be both armed and freed if they fought on the Southern side. 

Serving with the Confederate State’s Army, Jim had his own personal ways of understanding when the general was about to do battle. When he would see the general praying two or three times in a night, and it was then that Jim would know, with nary a word said by Jackson, that battle was near. With this personal insight, Jim would know to have Jackson’s haversack and his meals packed for the next morning, along with a saddled and ready Little Sorrel, so as to facilitate the general’s giving the Yankees purest hell.

Jim would brook no disrespect when the general was praying either, for he knew the master general meant business when talking to God. Jim demanded that everyone in proximity of Jackson understand and appreciate the deadly seriousness of his master’s petitions to his God. As a deeply religious man himself, Jim spent his share of time on his knees as well.  Please CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, Here is text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy that inspired this painting:

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When the slave Lewis boys had the opportunity to frolic and play with the slave children of the neighboring plantations, they would all play games like “Hide the Switch,” where a child would hide a simple switch cut from the branch of a tree. Who ever found it would then chase the others and attempt to whip them. Tyler, however, preferred spying on people.

Even after almost eleven hours of work, the Lewis boys, Tyler and Jim, would play like any other children. Play was an essential part of their lives; they reinterpreted stressful situations and the behavior of whites into games such as pretend slave auctions. Jim would always volunteer to impersonate the white man, the buyer of slaves, while the other children pretended to be the auctioneer and the rest of the participants. It was in this way that they would conduct a simulated slave sale, saying such things as “De highest bidder get to buy you and take you to his plantation.” Then Jim would say such things as, “Let’s see de teeth o’ dis fine buck.” 

Playing marbles was a favorite pastime. Jim and Tyler had once been taken to a marbles tournament where they had competed against other slaves as well as the children of the masters of the neighboring plantations. It was common for white children to play with their slave peers at an early age, though the practice of shared play would cease between the ages of six and eight. That was when the white children went off to school. 

Tyler took great pleasure in defeating the white children by displaying his superior skill at marbles, as he did at Jackson’s estate. Even after almost eleven hours of work, the Lewis boys, Tyler and Jim, would play like any other children.    CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:  

Two Faces of Uncle Tom

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These days, the term “Uncle Tom” can hold two distinct meanings. The first is spun out of the derivative adaptations of Harriet Stowe’s original novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin: “Uncle Tom” means a docile and ridiculously subservient black person who is particularly happy in being the underclass to white people and complicit in the oppression of others of his or her community. The second is the ambitious black person who “sells out” by joining mainstream society or the middle class by getting educated and objectively acts superior or turns their back on their community or where they came from just to climb the economic or social ladder.

Both definitions have these “Uncle Toms” overly identify with whites either from fear or opportunity, usually to their undoing or their loss of personal individuality and history. Both definitions are overly simplified and stray from the original portrayal of the Uncle Tom character. This over-simplification and contortion of the original story is a common problem in today’s media, especially when related to race relations in today’s America.

For everyone tossing the term around, it’s clear that a vast majority of them do not know who Uncle Tom really was: a black man, beaten to death by white slave owners while trying to protect others in his community. This Uncle Tom from the original novel is a Christ-like figure. This was the author’s original intention before pro-slavery entertainers took it and twisted it into the derogatory term we use today. Stowe was presenting an argument that slavery was inherently not Christian that slaves were human and to enslave them did not adhere to Christian ideals. The proliferation of the term in today’s world only shows the continued comfort we as a society have with violence, and the general apprehension we have when it comes to peace.

We as a nation and as the human race are battling a civil war within ourselves – and it will take more than bombs and guns and street violence to win that war.

Artist, writer, and publisher Gregory Newson has been working his whole life as an activist for the black community. He points out some of the real “Uncle Toms” in today’s society: “It’s the rap artists – many of them are paid by white-owned record labels to perform lyrics that degrade themselves and black women. These are the closest to ‘Toms.’”

It is still a hot button issue among African-Americans, which is why Gregory Newson tackled the subject head-on in his new book Uncle T and the Uppity Spy. 

To become a part of the conversation, please purchase your 16 x 20" Giclee wall print, signed by the atist, from the book Newson’s book Uncle T and the Uppity Spy

CLICK HERE to purchase a sign by artist Giclee 16" x 20" wall art print, The above text from the book Unlce T and the Uppity Spy is what inspired this painting:

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March 10, 2013

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