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January 2003

Eastman Johnson: Freedom Ring (1860)

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(1):013. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.1.013

AFTER HIS Sunday sermon on February 5, 1860, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher introduced a girl named Pink to his congregation at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, NY. Pink was a 9-year-old slave from Washington, DC, who was about to be sold by her owner. Beecher, an outspoken abolitionist, proposed that the church buy her freedom. Following his emotional plea, collection plates were passed. Mixed in with the money was a valuable ring that had been contributed by church member Rose Terry. The money alone proved more than enough, so the ring was presented to Pink as a gift. She was christened Rose Ward. Beecher later took her to visit artist Eastman Johnson, who painted her sitting in a patch of light on the floor of his darkened studio gazing at the "freedom ring" on her index finger.