I enjoyed Channing Gray’s article in the July 8 Providence Journal about Edward Bannister, one of the founders of the Providence Art Club and the Rhode Island School of Design.
This great African-American painter and his wife, Christiana Carteaux, were leading abolitionists in Boston who also led the successful effort for black men serving in the Union Army during the Civil War to receive the same pay as white soldiers.
In 1876, at the national Centennial in Philadelphia, an anonymous contest was held to select the best painting by an American artist. When the title of the winning painting was announced, Bannister strode up to receive the prize, just as a white man asked, “What is that colored person doing here?”
Before his death in Providence in 1901, Bannister’s health was failing, his paintings were no longer in fashion, and he was pessimistic about the future for African-Americans at a time when progress toward justice and racial equality were rapidly declining.
I am glad to see that an exhibit of Bannister’s work will be held now through October at the Gilbert Stuart Museum, in North Kingstown, and I encourage readers to see this work by a true Rhode Island treasure.
The writer is the author of “Born at the Battlefield of Gettysburg; an African-American Family Saga.” He moved to Rhode Island to be near his late hero, Edward Bannister.