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“Let’s Have Tea” by Pepsy M. Kettavong

This sculpture of women’s suffragist Susan B. Anthony and abolitionist Frederick Douglass sitting together over a table setting was created in 2001 by sculptor Pepsy M. Kettavong and is located in downtown Rochester at the Susan B. Anthony Square between Madison and King Street.  This sculpture is a touching tribute to and memorial of the friendship Douglass and Anthony shared, bonded by their devotion to their causes.

The beginning of this week’s reading, “Remembering World War II: The Rhetoric and Politics of National Commemoration at the Turn of the 21st Century” by Barbara A. Biesecker, discusses the emphasis on the placement of the World War II memorial in the very center of the nation’s capitol. The author describes the choice to place the memorial here, quoting former President Clinton’s speech at the memorial’s dedication ceremony, stating, “a prime piece of property was parceled out for the repair of a nation crippled by ‘division and resentment.’  While on a smaller scale, a similar emphasis on location can be seen in this bronze sculpture as well.  The piece is located at the very center of a small park, bordered by the home of Susan B. Anthony.

I thought that this piece was very fitting as the Presidential elections approach, especially since there is a great emphasis on the importance of women’s votes in this election.  At one point, American women were fighting simply for the right to vote, and now political candidates are fighting for the votes of women across the country.

One visual aspect I did find interesting was the positioning of the two figures toward each other.  Anthony’s hand is gesturing toward Douglass while his is held in front of himself, guardedly.  Additionally, Anthony’s expression on her face seems to be looking up toward Douglass earnestly while his head seems to be tilted downward towards her, questioningly. I thought that the body language in this scene seemed to suggest that the two would be having a debate-like discussion.  Later, as I read more about the relationship between Anthony and Douglass, I found out that they came to a point of challenge in their friendship when black men were given the right to vote under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, while women still remained without this right.  The expressions and gestures of the bronze figures seem to somewhat embody this point in their friendship.

Claire

Comments

Lisa
Reply

Claire, this is such an intriguing sculpture. I really admire how you referred to the expressions of the prominent leaders and related it back to the historical references. Rochester is home to these two leaders and it amazes me how much history this city has. Yes I agree, it is incredibly timely as the elections are coming up and the importance of the female vote is so crucial. I think this statue still represents the challenges that both groups face in America and how it continues to be a pressing topic especially in presidential debates of our era.

Alexandra
Reply

I like your analysis on the two figures. You captured a good idea of their body language and I also like this statue!

Kurt
Reply

Powerful choices. They truly symbolize Rochester and the powerful friendship these two had. Their empowering of each other changed society for the better.

Liz
Reply

The influence of these two figures can be seen all over Rochester. In addition to this statue, they have various houses and museums, and the recently-renamed Freddy-Sue bridge (Frederick Douglass Susan B. Anthony memorial bridge spanning the Genesee River in their honor. We may be a relatively small city in the greater scheme of things, but so much change that effected the entire country came out of our little city, so the number of memorial sites is fitting.

Justin
Reply

This statue captures the importance of these two historical figures. Displaying their conversations in such a casual way also makes it very relatable and realistic.

Andi
Reply

Such a powerful memorial! I like your analysis on this. I also like that you went in depth more and analyzed their body language. I would argue that this shows how Rochesterians today value that sort of friendship and a belief in fighting for causes due to the numerous sites dedicated to these two.

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