Hon. Charles Sumner

Description (Brief):

Black & white print; full length portrait of a man (Charles Sumner). He is holding a paper labeled "Bill of Civil Rights."

On May 22, 1856, during the Bleeding Kansas crisis, Massachusetts Republican Senator, Charles Sumner, delivered a speech to Congress in which he denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and demanded that Kansas be admitted to the Union as a free state. In his oration, he verbally attacked the pro-slavery South Carolina Senator, Andrew Butler. Two days later, Preston Brooks, a South Carolina Congressman and also Butler’s cousin, nearly beat Sumner to death on the Senate floor with a cane. Responses to the attack in the North and the South further polarized the people of the nation, leading it further down the path to war. Even before he had gained renown as the victim of “Bleeding Sumner,” the Senator had been a strong proponent of abolition and civil rights for African Americans. In 1848, the city of Boston denied Sarah Robert, a five-year-old black girl, enrollment at a white-only school. Sumner represented the Roberts in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, challenging the racial segregation of Boston schools in the state. Although the Court ruled in favor of Boston, deeming that racial segregation was not unconstitutional, Sumner’s argument was cited in Brown v. Board of Education, which prohibited segregated schools nationwide.

This portrait of the statesman celebrates one of his last efforts for racial equality. In his right hand, Sumner holds up a sheet of paper labeled, “Bill of Civil Rights.” While the lithograph was produced to commemorate the Senator after his death in 1874, it also urged support for the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which Sumner drafted and proposed during the 41st Congress of the United States. The Act guaranteed African Americans equal access to public accommodations and transportation and was passed by Congress a year after Sumner’s death and signed into law by President Grant. The Supreme Court, however, declared it unconstitutional during the 1883 Civil Rights Cases.

The print was produced by the firm of E. Sachse and Company. Edward Sachse moved to America from Germany sometime in the 1840s. He settled in Baltimore, finding employment under E. Weber & Co., one of the city’s most prominent lithography firms. He established E. Sachse & Co. in 1850, specializing in bird’s eye views of Baltimore and Washington D.C. His brother Theodore joined the firm in the mid-1850s and after Edward’s death in 1873, Theodore’s son Adolph headed the company, as A. Sachse & Co., from 1877 to 1887.

Date Made: 1874

Depicted: Sumner, CharlesMaker: E. Sachse and Company

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Maryland, Baltimore

Subject: U.S. National Government, legislative branchAdornmentReform MovementsBlacks


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Art, Peters Prints, Domestic Furnishings


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: DL.60.3114Catalog Number: 60.3114Accession Number: 228146

Object Name: lithographObject Type: Lithograph

Measurements: image: 20 1/2 in x 15 1/2 in; 52.07 cm x 39.37 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b4-b74a-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_325364

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