Putting the Story back in History
Aretha Franklin began singing gospel music as a child, launched a recording career at the age of 18, and soon earned the moniker "The Queen of Soul.” In the 1960s, her enormous voice become synonymous with the Black Empowerment, Civil Rights, Feminist, and Anti-Vietnam War Movements. One of the best-selling musical artists of all times, she sang in churches, concerts, and movies. She rang in the US presidencies of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, singing a spell-binding My Country, 'Tis of Thee at the 2009 inauguration of history's first African-American commander-in-chief.
Her career spanned 60 years; her playlist ran from gospel to soul to jazz, rock, pop, and classical. But one song, in particular, continues to resonate through the decades — the one Aretha claimed in a 2014 Rolling Stone Magazine interview was her personal favorite: Respect.
Did you know that Respect was written and sung originally by Otis Redding? His version took a stereotypically male point of view: a husband comes home after a hard day’s work and demands the respect of his wife. Aretha shifted the perspective, commanding her man to “give me my propers" in her full-throttle, no nonsense, full-range, finger-wagging, lyric-belting vocal style. Aretha’s reinterpretation of Redding's song became THE definitive version — both a Civil Rights as well as Feminist anthem.
Here's what Aretha had to say about it:
‘Respect’ is just basic to everyone: everybody wants it. Even small children want respect. They don’t know that they want it, but they want respect. They let you know when they need something, and when they do, it’s a little respect. Everybody wants and needs respect. It’s basic to mankind. Perhaps what people could not say, the record said it for them.
“I don’t think I was a catalyst for the women’s movement. As far as I know, that was Gloria Steinem’s role. But if I were, so much the better. Women did, and still do, need equal rights. We’re doing the same job, we expect the same pay, and the same respect."
Aretha Franklin gave us many gifts: songs that touch heart, body, mind, and soul on each hearing. When she died in August 2018, President Obama acknowledged the hole left behind: she defined the American experience, he said – “In her voice, we could feel our history.” That's what makes her an icon. And a legend.
Celebrating the History of Science and the Science behind History
Diego Velazquez (1599 – 1660) was a famous Spanish painter. He had a slave named Juan de Pareja (1606 – 1670). Call him an indentured servant if you want, but it’s more accurate to say he was Velazquez's slave, as he was not at liberty to leave. For years, Pareja prepared brushes, ground pigments, and stretched canvasses for the artist. While he was at it, Pareja observed his master carefully, and secretly taught himself how to use the materials, and how to paint.
Pareja was referred to as a Morisco in Spanish. One way to translate the word is that he had mixed parentage (the offspring of a European Spaniard and a person of African descent). Another way to translate the word is that he was a Moor—someone descended from Muslims who had remained in Spain after its conquest by Ferdinand and Isabella.
In 1650, Velazquez was preparing to paint a portrait of Pope Innocent X. As practice, he painted Pareja, who had accompanied the artist to Italy. Here is the portrait.
It's a pretty amazing picture, isn't it?
Velazquez got all sorts of praise for it from the artists in Rome—he was even elected into the Academy of St. Luke.
According to some sources, Velazquez would not allow Pareja to pick up a paintbrush. But one day, when King Philip IV was due to visit Velazquez, Pareja placed one of his own paintings where the king would see it. When the king admired it, believing it to be by Velazquez, Pareja threw himself at the king’s feet and begged for the King to intercede for him. Whether or not that story is true, Pareja did become an accomplished painter, and impressed the king so much that he ordered Pareja freed.
Pareja remained with the Velazquez family until his death.
It was hard to find examples of his paintings, but here are two that are attributed to him.
Sarah Albee's latest book is Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions and Murderous Medicines. You can read a review that gives you a dose of what's in this book.
MLA 8 Citation
Albee, Sarah. "The Painter Was a Slave." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 25 Oct. 2017, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/the-painter-was-a-slave.
For Vicki Cobb's BLOG (nonfiction book reviews, info on education, more), click here: Vicki's Blog
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