Located on Florida A&M University’s campus in the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum is a reminder of how far depictions of the black community have come. The museum contains “Uncle Luther,” a Blackamoor statue which represented a paradox in class status among those enslaved prior to the Civil War.
Blackamoor statues are usually stereotypical depictions of African-American men, and depicted holding a tray or something symbolizing that of a servant. African-American history professor William Guzman expressed the figures as distasteful and demeaning.
“Black people are the majority and shouldn't be seen as anything less,” Guzman said.
Blackamoor statues are also typically large in size, and made with cheap materials including painted wood or plaster.
FAMU’s “Uncle Luther” Blackamoor statue is an African-American man dressed in a red, blue, and white suit, with prominent black facial features. Most Blackamoor statues have gold accents and metallic details however.
This statue represents art to some and a reminder to others. Now, although the enslaved population was not considered a part of American society at the time, there were still distinctions among the enslaved. This statue represented the distinction between house slaves and field slaves.
During the slavery-era, slaves of a lighter complexion were most commonly assigned to be a house slaves. House slave duties included cleaning, cooking, serving meals and caring for all children inside of the plantation owner’s home.
Slaves of darker complexions were assigned to the field and stationed outside. Their duties included planting, harvesting cotton and tending to all crops.
This division between house slaves and field slaves created animosity because house slaves were considered to be privileged by their counterparts. “Uncle Luther” represented that division in the African-American society. And, even after slavery was abolished “Uncle Luther” still stands as a representation of the divide that existed and still exists among African-Americans.
Activist Jashonda Scott detailed the statue can be used as a reminder of how many Americans thought of the black community.
“The figures were a depiction of how they perceived African Americans,” Scott said.
Activist Paul Cleamons explained the statues represented a larger problem which was occuring at the time.
”I find the figures to be very derogatory. Black people didn't need figures to represent them,” Cleamons said. “They needed people to help them fight for the rights they deserved during this time.”
“Uncle Luther” was promoted in the early 20th century to remind African-Americans and youth to never limit themselves. And, as more achievements and strides are made by the black community specifically relating to art and media, African-Americans are constantly being reminded how far they’ve come.