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Historical Documents
The Hunted Slaves
1861

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The Hunted Slaves

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Two runaway slaves in a swamp, confronted by three vicious mastiffs, are the subject of this powerful painting by artist Richard Ansdell. The painting, entitled Hunted Slaves, was presented in 1861 at England's Royal Academy, where it was well-received by critics keenly aware of the Civil War taking place in the United States.

The literature accompanying the painting included an excerpt of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1842 anti-slavery poem, "The Dismal Swamp". . .

In dark fens of the Dismal Swamp
The hunted Negro lay;
He saw the fire of the midnight camp,
And heard at times a horse's tramp,
And a bloodhound's distant bay.
. . .
Where hardly a human foot could pass,
Or a human heart would dare,
On the quaking turf of the green morass
He crouched in the rank and tangled grass,
Like a wild beast in his lair.




Image Credit: Board of Trustees of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)




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