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Prior to my meeting with artist Cedric Harper I had emailed him a list of questions including a query about his sculpture, The Book of Truth. When we later met in a coffee shop, I noticed in his hands two pieces of paper. One was clearly the list of questions. The other I could not identify. A short slip with handwritten script. It didn’t matter. We began talking and what a wonder that was. Read more here.  But as I started to rise that day, thinking our conversation done, he stopped me. “Cynthia, ” he said with a smile.  “You haven’t asked me yet.  You haven’t asked me about the Book of Truth. Not everybody notices that one.”

book of truth sculpture by cedric harper, image courtesy of the artist

image courtesy of the artist

I told him that I had been struck by his use of color, the creaminess of the red, the smooth white upon the branches of the trees. Most of all I was made curious by the concept.  “What’s in that book?” I asked him.  As we began to talk about this book, our conversation ended where it had began, with family.

In Kansas, he’d grown up in a family with a strong oral tradition.  Stories were told often and life lessons emphasized. Those words of wisdom heard as a child and words of wisdom collected throughout adult life infuse his book of truth.

He worked on that sculpture for quite a while.  As he so frankly shared in the previous post, when his lover died in 1994, that was a pivotal moment in his life.  “I was lost. It took 15-18 years to feel like, to know that, I had a future. Part of gaining that future was creating this box of truths, of memories and experiences lived.” He handed me the slip of paper.

We may all have our book of truth. Those words and experiences garnered throughout our lives that guide us in how we try to live each day.  I appreciate the fact that Cedric Harper was moved to turn his book into sculpture. Here are some of his truths he chooses to share:

  1. Love is the escape from everything, an abyss of mind, body and soul.
  2. Every time one experiences a lapse in common sense the result makes them start over.
  3. Faith is to believe in things that we do not see and the reward of this faith is to see in what we believe.
  4. People should fall in love with their eyes closed. Just close your eyes. Don’t look … A. Warhol
  5. If you want to know your past life, look into your present condition. If you want to know your future, look into your present action. Padmasambhava
  6. Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you only see the manifestations … Lao-Tsu
  7. Power is a drink that few can refuse …
  8. There is a quake that rips the soul asunder. It is the pain of remembering.

Cedric Harper Website

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… at rest on a bright day in the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, Boston.

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I’d seen the sculpture many times inside Trinity Church but not truly appreciated it. A man holding a cup, a cup-bearer, but the person depicted had no context for me.  I knew nothing of his significance in the past or in the present.  There were too many other visuals capturing my attention, like sunlight through stained glass windows.  Only recently have I returned with greater respect to the relief of Elijah Winchester Donald, Rector of Trinity from 1892 until 1904.

Detail of E. Winchester Donald Sculpture by Bela Pratt

I unexpectedly re-discovered the sculpture, and the man depicted, while researching the history of a church thousands of miles away at what is now known as Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.

During my research I came across an issue of The Southern Workman, a publication founded in 1872 by General Samuel Chapman Armstrong of Hampton Institute, Hampton, VA.  Armstrong would leave his mark on American history for many reasons, one of which included founding Hampton just after the Civil War. There, a young Booker T. Washington, formerly a slave, would become a student and eventually a teacher. In 1881, when people in Alabama, wanting to start a new institute for black students, reached out to Armstrong for principal recommendations, Armstrong suggested young Washington who applied for the position and got the job.

The August 1895 issue of The Southern Workman made note of Tuskegee’s achievements, including recent receipt of anonymous funds to build a new chapel.  But prior to those funds being received graduation commencement services took place and, the journal describes the event in this way:

Years late, Booker T. Washington would describe the moment in a slightly different way.  In 1901, Washington wrote Up from Slavery, the chronicle of his journey from slavery, his attendance at Hampton and eventual leadership at Tuskegee and well beyond.  As Washington wrote, money had been found to start Tuskegee, with money set aside to pay future instructors, but no provisions had been made for securing land and buildings.

Later in his autobiography, Washington gives his personal recollection of the 1895 Tuskegee commencement in which Dr. Donald spoke:

The chapel would be built, designed by Robert R. Taylor, the first African American graduate of MIT. The chapel would be erected between 1896 and 1898, a structure some scholars say Taylor considered his masterpiece.

Robert R. Taylor

Robert R. Taylor

In 1900 author Max Thrasher wrote: “The building of this chapel illustrates, as well as any one instance can, the methods of the industrial training at Tuskegee.  The plans for the building were drawn by the school’s instructor in architectural and mechanical drawing.  The bricks, one million two hundred thousand in number, were made by students in the school’s brick yard and laid by the men in the brick-laying classes.  The lumber was was cut on the school’s land and sawed in the saw mill on the grounds.  The various wood-working classes did the work which in their departments.  The floor is of oak; all the rest of the finish in in yellow pine, and the use of this wood … The pews were built after a model designed by one of the students, and another student designed the cornices. The tin and slate roofing was put on by students, and the steam heating and electric lighting apparatus was installed by them …” Before his death in 1904, Donald would have an opportunity to speak in this chapel.

Though from two very different backgrounds, Donald and Washington appear to have greatly respected one another. In 1895  Donald established the Trinity Church Oratorical Prize, an award for the best written and best delivered paper on an assigned subject, a student prize that continues at Tuskegee, with different sources of funding, to this day.  For many reasons, Washington often made his way up North, cultivating philanthropists, accepting honorary degrees, attending national conferences, and speaking in places like Trinity.  In 1897 he was invited to deliver an address at the dedication of the Robert Gould Shaw Monument in Boston.  Prior to his arrival, Donald sent him a letter:

In 1901, Donald presented the dedication address for a new campus building at Tuskegee.  In attendance were noted business leaders and philanthropists including George Foster Peabody and John D. Rockefeller Jr. Before them was a magnificent campus, once a few fragile buildings, transformed by student-labor into a thriving educational institute with over 100 hundred instructors and staff, 50 buildings both functional and aesthetic, over 2500 acres of land with solid farming infrastructure and students applying from around the world.

Chemistry Lab 1902

Chemistry Lab 1902

Instructor George Washington Carver

Tuskegee Instructor George Washington Carver

Donald’s dedication address was made just a few decades after the end of the Civil War.  There was still great philosophical debate about what was to become of the millions of African Americans formerly enslaved.  Like Washington, Donald seemed to believe that education and skill building were the key for black people to let go of the past, achieve success in the present, and build a foundation for future excellence.

During the address, Donald would say: “We are in the presence of a fact. Whether or not the negro can be raised to self-respect, industry, thrift and ethical soundness, let the doctrinaires debate. One thing we know, whereas he was blind to his only chance, now he sees. He has only to keep his eyes open and use his chance to rise clean out of the condition into which 200 years of enforced servitude and thirty-five years of stupid, selfish and merciless political exploitation thrust him down.”  His words would become controversial with statements including “an educated negro without a vote is worth infinitely more than ten illiterate white men who vote as often as the polls are open.

Until the end of his days, in person and in writing, Donald would support the efforts of Washington at Tuskegee and those at other Southern black schools educating new generations.  He supported the efforts of many people inside the U.S. and from abroad trying to make social change.  He may have thought he was being militant.

As was said by the Rector of Grace Church in his memory, “his supreme gift was not militancy,–however it may have seemed to some, as well as to himself,–his supreme gift was not militancy, it was sympathy; he gave drink to the thirsty; he satisfied the longing soul; his true emblem was not the claymore, as he fancied, it was the chalice.”

Others stated, “Some of us disagreed with him, some of us thought his positions untenable, but none of us doubted his fraternal regard.”

His memorial was completed January 27, 1907, the bas relief by sculptor Bela Pratt and its setting designed by Donald’s friend, Charles A. Coolidge.

As for that chapel at Tuskegee, it would continue to evolve but that is a story for another day.

Sources & Additional Reading

Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington

History of Tuskegee (University Website)

Tuskegee: Its History and its Work (1900)

Samuel Chapman Armstrong (Hampton University Website)

MIT Archives – Robert R. Taylor

Bela Pratt Sculpture of E. Winchester Donald

Trinity Church Art & History

The King’s Cup Bearer, Sermon in Memory of E. Winchester Donald, 1904

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Bust of Dean Stanley at Trinity Church

I took the picture, I did the research and this is what I learned:  On Easter Monday in 1877, Rev. Phillips Brooks was given leave by his parish, Trinity Church in the City of Boston, to take a sojourn to Europe.  While in England, he spent time with Arthur Stanley, Dean of Westminster Abbey. Brooks was invited to preach at Westminster in July, and it is written that Dean Stanley listened with delight to a doctrine after his own heart.  Brooks would later share in a letter, “Last Sunday I preached for Mr. Stanley at his church in London, and William and I were much in the little man’s company while we were in his town.  He is very pleasant and entertaining, but much changed since his wife’s [Lady Augusta Stanley] death. He has grown old and fights hard to keep up an interest in things.”(1)


In the autumn of 1878, Dean Stanley traveled to America. In Boston he preached for the Rev. Phillips Brooks at Trinity Church.  Brooks would later write that no one who heard the benediction at the close of the service would ever forget it. “He had been but a few days in America. It was the first time he had looked an American congregation in the face. The church was crowded with men and women of whom he knew that to him they represented the New World. He was for a moment a representative of English Christianity. And as he spoke the solemn words, it was not a clergyman dismissing a congregation, it was the Old World blessing the New; it was England blessing America.  The voice trembled while it grew rich and deep, and took every man’s heart into the great conception of the act that filled itself.”


In 1881, following Dean Stanley’s death, Phillips Brooks would write a 12-page retrospective for The Atlantic Monthly.  In conclusion Brooks would highlight lessons of faith and good will he thought taught by Stanley’s life, and then end with these words:

“These lessons will be taught by many lives in many languages before the end shall come; but for many years years yet to come there will be men who will find not the least persuasive and impressive teachings of them in Dean Stanley’s life. The heavens will still be bright with stars, and younger men will never miss the radiance which they never saw. But for those who once watched for his light there will always be a special darkness in the heavens, where a star of special beauty went out when he died.” (3)

Miss Mary Grant, an eminent British sculptor and Stanley’s niece by marriage, would execute a memorial bust.  That bust would be given to Trinity Church to commemorate his visit.  It is located in an area that I believe is known as the baptistry.  His visage “stands upon a bracket of Sienna marble … beneath which is a tablet of Mexican onyx, on which is engraved a tribute by Robert C. Winthrop.” (4) And sitting across from him?  A bust of Phillips Brooks.

Bust of Phillips Brooks by Daniel Chester French

Bust of Phillips Brooks by Daniel Chester French

Learn more about Trinity stories in stone and glass with a tour: http://trinitychurchboston.org/art-history/tours

Sources for this post …

(1) Phillips Brooks, 1835-1893: Memories of his life … by Alexander Viets Griswold Allen (1907)

(2) Life and Correspondence of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Volume 2 by Rowland Edmund Prothero (1893)

(3) The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 48, October 1881

(4) Trinity Church in the City of Boston, 1888, pp. 31-32

(5) Mary Grant

(6) Phillips Brooks Bust image is from Wiki Commons

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At some point, I’ll set myself up in Copley Square with a tripod, and photograph the church’s whole West Porch.  At least I will do my best.  Meanwhile, I am having great fun photographing the porch details.

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Close-up of the eagle lectern in the sanctuary at Trinity Church in Copley Square, Boston.

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In a world filled with such sadness and confusion, I think that is why it is such a pleasure to sit in the Boston Public Library courtyard and stare into these faces filled with such joy and awe.  The actual name of the sculpture is Bacchante and Infant Faun.  It is a replica of the bronze sculpture created by Frederick William MacMonnies.

You can read an interesting and very detailed analysis of the statue’s history in Boston and at the BPL via this link.  In short, while treasured today, this naked figure serving the infant god, Bacchus, caused quite the uproar in 1890’s Boston. Imagine that. 😉

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In the Back Bay, I’ve been walking past the First Baptist Church of Boston for years, but, today, for the first time, I trained my camera up to the top of the building tower.  And what an amazing sight.

Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, “… its square tower is 176 feet high. At the top of the tower … is a frieze of sculpted figures representing baptism, communion, marriage and death. The frieze was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, famous for the Statue of Liberty, and was carved by Italian artists after the stones were set in place. It includes the faces of Sumner, Longfellow, Emerson, Hawthorne, Lincoln, Lafarge, and his comrade Garibaldi, and other prominent Bostonians …” (History of the First Baptist Church of Boston)  I hope to learn more about this amazing building, and take more photos, over the summer.

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