The cover of the January 27 issue is stunning, in all senses of that word! Your note lists the artwork as “Hale Woodruff’s mural Mutiny on the Amistad (1939), courtesy of Talladega College, Alabama,” which was enough to set me off on a research mission. Thank you.
Readers not in the know, as I was not, may be interested to learn that the Paris-trained Woodruff was influenced by the muralists of his day, Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera (he apprenticed under the latter); the cover painting is one of three scenes depicting the rebellion, Supreme Court trial and return to Africa of the freed men of the Amistad; Woodruff had not heard of the Amistad incident before he was commissioned to paint the murals; and Talladega College is the oldest historically black college in Alabama (it opened its doors in 1867).
Does it say something about our society that as an art history minor in college, I had not heard of this superb black artist and academic?st. louis
Who Are the Oppressed?
Re Greg Grandin’s “Slavery and Freedom” [Jan. 27]: Melville’s Benito Cereno can be understood as a parable for America’s involvement in the Middle East. We think we understand who the oppressed and the abusers are; we freely and smugly exercise judgment, although on close inspection the reality on the ground does not at all match our frame of understanding.
Though his quoted estimate of 10 percent of slaves being Muslim seems high to me, I embrace Grandin’s research into this event. It is both insightful and revealing.
Morrison & Melville
Toni Morrison’s “On Melville” [Jan. 27] reminded me that fourscore and nine years ago, I was brought forth upon this continent at 1744 Reid Avenue, Lorain, Ohio. From reading The Bluest Eye, I’m guessing that Toni lived about a block and a half from where I was born.
winter park, fla.
Regarding David Cole’s “Privacy in the Digital Era” [Jan. 27]: we already have Fourth Amendment protections for cars and telephone calls. It would follow the same logic to extend these protections to e-mails and our online activities. The NSA has claimed that, under the Patriot Act, it has the authority to do what it has been doing, but no law passed by Congress can go against the Constitution. Those that do are unconstitutional and therefore illegal. The Constitution is about limiting the power of government just as much as it is about outlining personal rights, and the government lacks the authority to undo that. The only way around the Constitution is to amend it.