PRINT July/August 2020


Dawoud Bey, Untitled #14 (Site of John Brown’s Tannery), 2017, gelatin silver print, 44 × 55". From the series “Night Coming Tenderly, Black,” 2017.

SET BACK ON THE FAR SIDE OF A FIELD, in an overgrown backyard, a modest farmhouse is bisected by the silhouette of a tree. Just out of reach of its branches, billowing clouds overtake a pocket of sunshine. This pastoral scene appears in a contemporary black-and-white image that depicts John Brown’s tannery in Hudson, Ohio, from the imagined vantage of fugitive slaves who might have sheltered with the abolitionist while he lived there from 1824 to 1826. John Brown Jr. recalls being five years of age when the house was visited by the first black people he had ever met—“dark panting refugees who flitted by in the night,” as W. E. B. Du Bois recounts it—sent to his father by a sympathetic neighbor:1 

Mother gave the poor creatures some supper; but they thought themselves pursued and were uneasy. Presently father heard the trampling of horses crossing a bridge on one of the main roads,
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