Peter H. Wood has inspired a generation of historians to investigate the role played by people of African descent in the construction of American society. His first book, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (1974), is both an essential history of South Carolina’s turbulent beginnings and a classic portrait of how a human community shapes its environment and is shaped by land and water in turn. His subsequent work reflects his lifelong interests in exploration, natural history, and the arts. Wood’s two recent books on paintings by Winslow Homer—Weathering the Storm: Inside Winslow Homer’s Gulf Stream (2004) and Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War (2010)—break new ground in the interpretation of an American master.
On October 20–21, the College of Charleston’s Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World program, Addlestone Library, and Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture will present “The Art of History,” a two-day event honoring Peter Wood. Activities will begin on Thursday evening at 6:00 in Addlestone Library, room 227, with a screening of Carvalho’s Journey, a work-in-progress by acclaimed filmmaker Steve Rivo. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1815, Solomon Nunes Carvalho was an observant Jew who became a mainstream artist and the official photographer for John C. Fremont’s 1853 expedition across North America, a journey that nearly cost him his life.
On Friday, Wood, professor emeritus at Duke University, will offer a lecture on Near Andersonville, recounting the detective-like work at the intersection of art and history that led him to uncover the mysteries of this once neglected painting. Winslow Homer may be best known for his paintings of ships and sailors, hunters and fishermen, rural vignettes and coastal scenes, but he also created some of the first serious black figures in American art. Wood’s provocative study gives us a fresh view on Homer’s early career, the struggle to end slavery, and the dramatic closing engagements of the Civil War.
The lecture, to be held on October 21st at 6:00 PM at the Avery Research Center, 125 Bull Street, is co-sponsored by Wells Fargo (formerly Wachovia) Bank and is a part of the CLAW program’s commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial.