How a Black Warrior Became a Symbol for a German Fraternal Society

Image of the Week: The Brotherhood of the Black Heads adopted the African rider as an emblem of discovery and commerce.

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It seems that the Black Heads’ own centuries-long veneration of the profiled Moor could not fully countenance the banal use of this potent emblem. Instead, they endowed the beribboned head of the Moor with an unprecedented sense of agency. That a black ruler presides over this vision of dominion is a tribute to the abiding tradition of the small fraternity, forming a symbolic antithesis to the horrors faced by enslaved Africans of the time.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Archive resides at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute, part of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The founding director of the Hutchins Center 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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