1001 Black Men … and Three Black Women: Anna Downer

Anna Downer72dpi

Although the title of this online sketchbook is 1001 Black Men, I wanted to share with you three pieces that I created in memory of some of the African American women whose talent and courage have inspired me every day.

The first is Anna Downer. Born and raised in Connecticut, she worked her way up to the status of Head Stewardess on the S.S. Arctic, a 2800-ton steamship in the Collins Line, widely believed to be the most luxurious cruise line to be based in the U.S.

On September 27, 1854, the Arctic collided with the French steamship S.S. Vesta. The iron-hulled Vesta tore a hole in the wooden-hulled Arctic, and over the next several hours, the Arctic sunk, killing every woman and child onboard. The only survivors were men, and most of those were on the ship’s crew. Anna Downer was among the casualties but, as the ship’s captain reported after his rescue, she died a heroine. When he encouraged her to leave the ship and board one of the lifeboats, she refused, saying, “Captain, I am willing to pump as long as I can work my arms!”

Ajuan Mance


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