Marking Juneteenth: A Conversation About Candlesticks and Slavery

Francis Nelme, Pair of George II Figural Candlesticks, 1730, silver, Museum Purchase: The William H. Nunn Trust Fund, established in memory of his wife, Alice B. Nunn, public domain, 2012.82.1a,b.

For the past few years, Ted Smith, longtime Portland Art Museum Visitor Services Lead has been marking Juneteenth by doing one of the many things that he does so well—connecting Museum visitors with art and making connections to our shared history of slavery and its lasting impact on our society. June 19th is Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Over two years had passed since the Emancipation Proclamation declared the end of slavery.

While the pandemic continues to keep us from gathering in the galleries together as a group, this year Ted has chosen to spotlight the Pair of George II Figural Candlesticks by Francis Nelme in a video conversation with Ambush, General Manager of The Numberz FM

“What always got me was that it was a child, and this was popular in Europe and here. Europe eventually, they abolished slavery, but before they did it was fashionable to have a Black child, just like you had a great dane.”

—Ted Smith

Take a closer look at these objects in our online collections. 

Ted also mentions a postcard in the video. Postcards depicting and even celebrating the lynchings of Black people after slavery ended were common, and during his research, he found a lynching victim that shares his name. The postcards can be seen here (warning—graphic content).

Connect to Juneteenth community events

Don’t Shoot Portland and Our Streets PDX Week of Service
June 14 – 19
Join Don’t Shoot Portland for their annual Juneteenth celebration this week from Monday through Saturday.

The Numberz and XRAY 5th Annual Juneteenth Teach In
June 19, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Listen at 107.1, 91.1, & 96.7 FM or online at or Regular programming will be preempted for the 12-hour teach in on Saturday to give voice to local Black leaders and thinkers celebrating Black excellence and the pursuit of a better Portland.

The Numberz FM Drip Market 
June 19, noon – 6 p.m.
140 NW 4th Ave.
Four blocks of all Black vendors: vintage, resale, food, art, music 

Virtual Juneteenth Oregon Celebration, produced by PDX Jazz 
June 19, 1 p.m.

Additional listings compiled by PDX Pipeline

Learn more about equity and inclusion work at the Portland Art Museum & Northwest Film Center.

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