Location: Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University (Durham, North Carolina)
Title of Song: Lucinda – Cinda – Jane
Composer: Hart, Joseph (Hart & De Mar)
Illustrator: American Lithographic
Publisher: Schubert Piano Company
Year & Place: 1894; New York, New York
Collection/Call Number/Copies: Music B-864
Historic American Sheet Music Item #: hasm.b0864
This cover depicts a portrait of a couple in a circular frame. This is centered against a floral and botanical background reminiscent of an arabesque pattern. The intertwined green broad-leafed plants and orange and purple flowers are also situated within a pale yellow background. With their heads leaning towards each other, the male and female subjects slightly open their mouths to reveal cloying, wide-toothed smiles as they look into each others eyes. On the left, the woman wears her hair in soft, full curls with a beaded headband and a large blue ribbon. Around her neck is a gold-toned necklace with a heart-shaped pendant. Because the couple is only shown from the shoulders upward, very little of the woman’s garments show. The viewer is only able to see the sheer fabric of the bodice and two large red ribbons at each shoulder. Her male partner in this image wears a black blazer with a blue and white striped shirt and a black-and-white polka-dot bow. Each of these figures has abnormally bright red lips and the whites of their eyes and teeth pop out of the image.
This image is striking on many levels. These portraits show two busts. In other words, most of the body is invisible. Other inaccessible pieces of information include their individual identities as well as their relationship to each other. The two characters seem as though they have been smiling for too long. Their smiles seem forced, fake and overdone. The two seem too happy and simultaneously, suffering from fatigue. What is most bothersome about this image is its visual connections to minstrelsy. In particular, the saturated red color of the lips recalls the archetypal minstrel mask. The large, toothy, saccharine smiles work in the exact same way. What does it mean that the artist connects these two blacks with this type of masking? What does it mean that they are surrounded or framed by a flat pattern of leaves, plants and other phenomena from the natural world?
Susan Maria Smith McKinney Steward (1847-1918) and William G. McKinney
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Susan Maria Smith was the first black woman to graduate from medical college in New York state. After graduating as valedictorian from the New York Medical College for Women, she attended the Long Island Medical College Hospital, where she was the only woman in the entire college.
Married in 1874 to the Rev. William G. McKinney. McKinney was an Episcopal minister originally from South Carolina. The couple lived in Steward’s parents’ home until 1874, when they moved to a predominantly white area of Brooklyn. McKinney was 17 years older than his wife. The couple had two children: Anna, who became a schoolteacher, and William Sylvanus, who, like his father, became an Episcopal priest. The family lived comfortably in Brooklyn.
In 1881, while the couple was still together, Smith McKinney co-founded the Women’s Hospital & Dispensary in Brooklyn, which later became the Memorial Hospital for Women and Children. She served on the staff of the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women in Manhattan, and from 1892 to 1896 was manager of the medical staff of the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People. She also served as church organist and choir director for Brooklyn’s Bridge Street Church. In 1890, William McKinney suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was unable to maintain his normal work schedule. Steward supported the family, as well as six of her relatives who lived in the McKinney home. William McKinney died on November 24, 1895 when Steward was 48.His wife practiced as Dr. Susan Smith McKinney until his death in 1896.