Relief bust of Wendell Phillips by Edmonia Lewis. The original dates from c. 1864. This signed and dated version was carved in Rome in 1871.
See @wcaleb on Twitter for an excellent selection of excerpts from Phillips’ writings including this passage.
Reading around in print and electronic media, we have all seen the back and forth — some of it over-the-top heated — about the great safety pin question. Today I read the account of a lefty white clergyman friend of worshiping at a predominately black church where the question was raised about allies wearing pins.
Many congregants in the discussion found it to be a thoughtful gesture. Not a panacea, but a nice gesture that might even make a difference in a given situation. Like the purported powers of chicken soup; it can’t hurt, right?
So, here’s where I am on the question just now. I choose to see the safety pin worn as a sign of solidarity, or of willingness to offer help, bear witness, or ease a concern, as the secular equivalent of symbols of faith or belief worn and seen everywhere, every day. They, too, might come to speak more loudly as our present circumstance unfolds.
In the meantime, a little signal of unity on the lapel can’t hurt. And if it can on occasion really help, then shame on any of us for being cynical about the gesture.
A nice account of the recovery and history of this important marble bust of John Brown by the New England sculptor Edward (sometimes identified as Edwin) Brackett. He was Edmonia Lewis’s teacher in Boston. His influence on her work is particularly notable in her own heroic busts of figures such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others.