A Ride for Liberty -- The Fugitive Slaves (recto)
On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, Nations Divided, 1860–1910
In this composition, Eastman Johnson portrayed an enslaved family charging for the safety of Union lines in the dull light of dawn. The absence of white figures in this liberation subject makes it virtually unique in art of the period—these African Americans are independent agents of their own freedom. Johnson claimed to have based the painting on an actual event he witnessed near the Manassas, Virginia, battlefield on March 2, 1862, just days before the Confederate stronghold was ceded to Union forces.
In agony close to her bosom she press’d The life of her heart, the child of her breast:— Oh! love from its tenderness gathering might, Had strengthen’d her soul for the dangers of flight. But she’s free!—yes, free from the land where the slave From the hand of oppression must rest in the grave; Where bondage and torture, where scourges and chains Have plac’d on our banner indelible stains.
—Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (African American poet), “Eliza Harris” (1854)
Oil on paperboard
21 15/16 x 26 1/8 in. (55.8 x 66.4 cm)
frame: 3 x 30 x 35 in. (7.6 x 76.2 x 88.9 cm)
frame: 32 7/16 x 36 5/8 in. (82.4 x 93 cm) (show scale)
Signed lower right: "E. J."
Gift of Gwendolyn O. L. Conkling
Eastman Johnson (American, 1824-1906). A Ride for Liberty -- The Fugitive Slaves (recto), ca. 1862. Oil on paperboard, 21 15/16 x 26 1/8 in. (55.8 x 66.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Gwendolyn O. L. Conkling, 40.59a-b (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 40.59a_PS9.jpg)
overall, 40.59a_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2016
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
No known copyright restrictions
This work may be in the public domain in the United States. Works created by United States and non-United States nationals published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, subject to the terms of any applicable treaty or agreement.
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this work. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form
The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties, such as artists or artists' heirs holding the rights to the work. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act.
The Brooklyn Museum makes no representations or warranties with respect to the application or terms of any international agreement governing copyright protection in the United States for works created by foreign nationals.
For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress
, Cornell University
, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
, and Copyright Watch
For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright
If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact email@example.com
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome
any additional information you might have.