Here is Page 4 of the Robert Smalls graphic novel. It took ages! Much longer than I’d planned. I want to find ways of working more quickly so hopefully the next page won’t take so long.
A high definition version is available to my Patrons on my Patreon.
The first and second panels were where all the time went, but I’ll explain more about that when I upload some work-in-progress shots in a few days.
What’s happening on Page 4?
Well, as I noted in a previous post, it’s not actually known exactly where on the property Smalls was born and lived, so I’d made a not unprecedented and artistic decision that in this graphic novel, he would be born and raised in separate slave quarters at the rear of the main house.
What is known is that the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery had staged a public hanging of a black man at their headquarters at the Beaufort Armory on the day of Smalls’ birth and that a lot of the townsfolk had gone to watch. It is likely that Lydia, Robert’s mother, gave birth alone.
There may have been a midwife in attendance but I have chosen not to include her so the focus in these panels is squarely on Lydia and Robert, with the last panel being oversized compared to the image it contains to give the image of them room to breathe.
The body of the hanged man was paraded through the streets after the hanging, frightening blacks in the street. Truly a gruesome backdrop to the arrival of a new life.
This all seems a little close to the bone in light of what is going on in America right now and the global discourse about authority and black lives and my thoughts on that are in another post, here).
The walls of the slave quarters have, at some point in the past, been painted “Haint Blue” by the slaves, a tradition among Gullah people to ward off evil spirits. (As I write this, I’m thinking I’ll do a separate post about this tradition soon (EDIT: And that post is now here!)
I am aware I’m queuing up quite the list of stuff to write about later but that just means more stuff for you to look forward to! Lucky you!)