Boston Bishop Showed Colorblind Charity

Image of the Week: This monument depicts his many good deeds for the poor, including aiding a black man.

Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus aiding a black man in Boston, 1844.Plaster, 56 by 101 cm, Angers, Musée des Beaux-Arts.

What separated the early abolitionists from Cheverus was their unswerving commitment to radical social change through legal and at times extralegal advocacy. His dedication to the conservative religious and political authority of prerevolutionary France, represented by Catholicism and the divine right of kings, would seem to have embraced an altogether different form of altruism, one that alleviated social ills within the established order of things. In this regard, one wonders how he felt when the oppressed slaves of Haiti took matters into their own hands and revolted against their French masters.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Archive resides at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. The director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute is Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is also The Root’s editor-in-chief. The archive and Harvard University Press collaborated to create The Image of the Black in Western Art book series, eight volumes of which were edited by Gates and David Bindman and published by Harvard University Press. Text for each Image of the Week is written by Sheldon Cheek.

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