Outrage as the Newark Public Library put on display a portrait that shows a black female slave having sex with a white man. The drawing, created by black artist Kara Walker, portrays the horrors many blacks faced after the Civil War and during Reconstruction. It also depicts hooded Ku Klux Klan members standing around a burning cross. The painting was originally on display during Thanksgiving on the library’s second-floor reference room, but it was covered with cloth after workers complained it was insensitive.
The question of freedom of expression weighs heavily in this controversy, but where do we draw the line? Do we want children staring at a painting of a black slave caught in such a compromising position? There were grotesque incidents that occurred during America’s darkest days, but we must be mindful that slavery and racism are sensitive subjects for many, both black and white.
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