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Ugly Picture

***The staff of the Jim Crow Museum receives dozens of letters and emails. Some of these communiques offer insight into race relations -- historically and in the present. We have decided to share some of these letters and emails with our Internet visitors.***

My husband's mother recently died, and I believe a piece of artwork she left behind might be of interest to your museum. Titled "Washday Blues," it dates back to the 1920s or '30s. It is a drawing of a black toddler with angel wings sitting on a cloud "playing" a washboard like a harp and, apparently, singing. She has a halo of what looks like bent wire clipped to her hair with a clothespeg. The image is about 10-by-13 inches, and it is in a larger frame, maybe 15-by-20.

My mother-in-law loved this print, which my husband says made him uncomfortable even as a child. It is certainly nothing we want to hang in our house (!), but I do feel it has historical value. I have looked through the sections on your museum's Website for children and picaninnies, which this artifact certainly fits, and found nothing similar.

My husband would be happy to donate this piece to the museum and pay for shipping if you are interested. It would be nice to know it was preserved in a place dedicated to exploring and remembering the popular culture of racism in this country.

Karen Christianson
Evergreen Park, Ill.
-- Feb. 4, 2005