An Obdurate Mule, Going Back on the Parson: "Now den all togedder and sumfin's got ter come."

Publisher Currier & Ives American

Not on view

The late nineteenth-century Darktown prints by Currier & Ives depict racist stereotypes that are offensive and disturbing.The Metropolitan Museum of Art preserves such works to shed light on their historical context and to enable the study and evaluation of racism. 

This print depicts a treeless, green countryside with a train approaching from the left-of-center background. In the foregound, a mule, hitched to a wooden wagon, balks in the middle of the railroad tracks and refuses to budge. At right, a caricatured Black (African American) parson, nicely dressed in a brown suit and white top hat trimmed with brown ribbon, stands in the wagon open-mouthed in frustration. He holds the reins in his gloved left hand, while his upraised right hand holds a closed umbrella poised to strike the mule. A sheet of white paper marked "SERMON" sticks out of his back pocket. At left, a colorfully dressed Black woman stands open-mouthed on the ground. As she tilts dangerously backwards on her heels, she pulls with all her might on the mule's bridle to urge it to get across the tracks. She wears a red flower in her hat, a blue-green jacket, a red bustle, and a red/yellow striped skirt. Another Black man -- wearing a bowler hat, a red/pink striped jacket and blue/green pants --leans close to the ground and reaches beneath the mule's legs to light a fire as a further attempt to move the mule. The title and caption are imprinted in the bottom margin.

Nathaniel Currier (1813–1888), whose successful New York-based lithography firm began in 1835, produced thousands of prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century American life and its history. People eagerly acquired such lithographs featuring picturesque scenery, rural and city views, ships, railroads, portraits, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments. As the firm expanded, Nathaniel included his younger brother Charles in the business. In 1857, James Merritt Ives (1824–1895), the firm's accountant since 1852 and Charles's brother-in-law, was made a business partner. Subsequently renamed Currier & Ives, the firm continued via their successors until 1907.

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