Friday, 18 August 2017

strumming on the old banjo

Rising above the ranks of unabashed, unapologetic romancing of statues of Confederate military leaders, Damon Young shares his encounter with a surpassingly offensive monument that he’d managed to overlook his whole life, despite being in the same city. The bronze of US songwriter Stephen Collin Foster was cast and dedicated in 1900 in the city of Pittsburgh near the campuses of the Carnegie Institutes (not that the provenance is any excuse for the portrayal) and depicts Foster elevated over an African America ostensibly performing some of the minstrel tunes that either inspired Foster or rather that Foster just committed to sheet-music and took the credit for.  Standards of decency and propriety had advanced, at least one could be forgiven for thinking, that is until one reads an excerpt from a city newspaper article written one hundred and ten years after its dedication (which directed the author to the statue’s existence in the first place) that is couched in dated, racist terms.  You’ll do a double-take too.