The Haitian Revolution is captured in a new exhibition—““To Haiti Let Us Go”—at the Phillips Collection in Northwest Washington. The show features 15 rarely seen silkscreen prints by the late African-American painter Jacob Lawrence about Toussaint L’Ouverture, “the Haitian ex-slave turned general who led a revolution that ultimately wrested the Caribbean island from French control and ended slavery.” Lawrence created this series between 1986 and 1997. The exhibit opened on Saturday, January 7 and runs through April 23. Here are excerpts from Caribbean Life News:
It’s based on an earlier series of paintings Lawrence executed on the same topic in the 1930s, said Elsa Smithgall, the museum’s curator. The exhibit, which opened on Saturday, closes April 23.
The former French colony, with its massive coffee and sugar exports that relied on slave labor and used brutality to keep slaves in check, was the most profitable colony in the Americas by the 1760s, according to the US Department of State’s Office of the Historian. L’Ouverture was born into slavery in 1743 in Haiti, and led a massive slave insurrection on the island against White planters in 1791, The Afro said.
[. . .] Lawrence, who died in 2000, captured multiple stages of the Haitian Revolution — some depict violence and others show soldiers quietly plotting the next maneuver, according to The Afro.
“The thing about Toussaint L’Ouverture that Lawrence is really interested in expressing here, that he does in so many of his works, is the struggle, and the part about searching for freedom and doing away with oppression,” Smithgall said. The Afro said Lou Stovall and his wife, Di Stovall, who are Washington, D.C. residents, own the collection, and were friends with Lawrence and his wife, Gwendolyn Knight, for decades.
Lou Stovall, 79, and Lawrence forged their friendship in the 1960s after one of Stovall’s professors introduced them at Howard University, The Afro said. It said Lawrence later tapped Stovall, a master print maker, to print the silkscreen images that comprise “To Haiti Let Us Go” in order to “dramatically capture the revolution and suffering Haitians experienced under French colonial rule.”
[. . .] “Jake, first of all, learned about the Haitians and their predicament with France and with Spain through reading, and he was concerned, of course, about the plight of all people,” Stovall said. “He wanted everyone to be free.” [. . .]