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...is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the prices of chains and slavery? Patrick Henry-1775
Jacob Lawrence American
Not on view
The title of this panel is drawn from a speech delivered by Virginia statesman Patrick Henry defending the colonial cause. Its reference to enslavement galvanized patriots to demand liberty from the British—an argument hypocritical to some, coming from a Southern enslaver. In the painting, Lawrence dramatically positioned a figure at top left, gesticulating above a rallying crowd. The man also clutches a rifle that undergirds raised fists, including one blocking a woman and child from a bayonet. Faces of all tonalities focus intently on the speaker amid the chaotic scene, which the dynamic composition reinforces. At right, a dark wall with red drips foreshadows the bloody struggles to come.