Old Times Not Forgotten

Oil on wood
12 ¼ x 24 ¼ inches
Credit Line:
Private Collection

A plantation scene by Red Grooms, it belongs to a long history of paintings of noble field hands. Though the title references the Rebel anthem, “Dixie,” these people who are planting sweet potatoes on Edisto Island are already free. In November 1861, Union gunboats attacked the plantation islands off the coast of South Carolina. The planters fled, but most of their slaves refused to accompany them. Grooms based his painting on an 1862 photograph of these field workers, but by that year Lincoln had proclaimed that any fugitives who reached Union lines were free. They were allowed to choose what to plant and preferred to farm for food, not cotton.