Med Historian Margaret Humphreys to Give Nasher Talk on Civil War Art

Humphreys' talk to buttress exhibit by New York artist Kara Walker

Duke students in the Museum Theory and Practice class listen as Nasher Museum Director Sarah Schroth talks about prints by Kara Walker that are part of the museum’s collection. Photo by J Caldwell
Duke students in the Museum Theory and Practice class listen as Nasher Museum Director Sarah Schroth talks about prints by Kara Walker that are part of the museum’s collection. Photo by J Caldwell

Medical historian Margaret Humphreys will discuss depictions of black soldiers in the Civil War Feb. 2 in a talk at the Nasher Museum of Art.

Humphreys, the Josiah C. Trent Professor of the History of Medicine, will speak at 6 p.m. in conjunction with an exhibit at the Nasher by contemporary artist Kara Walker. Walker’s exhibit is a series of 15 prints overlaid with silhouettes, the images derived from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War.

Walker’s art acts as commentary on the depiction of black bodies during the Civil War.

Humphreys has spent decades researching black soldiers in the Civil War. She describes her research as the study of “the history of medicine, history of disease, and how the health events of the black Civil War soldiers were explained in the broader rhetoric of who black people were in the culture.” She is the author of Intensely Human: The Health of Black Soldiers in the American Civil War.

Humphreys hopes attendees will consider the role Harper’s Weekly magazine played and the stance it held during the Civil War.

“Black people were the whole underpinning of the civilization and they recognized that. Harper’s Weekly is pro-abolition, pro-Lincoln, and pro-black,” Humphreys says. “They wanted to show blacks as respectable people.”

Humphreys’ gallery talk is free and open to the public.