American Families and Social Conflict, 1600-1877.
This exhibit examines some of the ways that American families experienced social conflict between 1600 and 1877. It also considers how conflicts within individual families may have reflected broader disruptions in society. The artifacts provided here highlight how families constantly became caught up in larger social issues and how personal decisions could end up influencing an entire society.
This painting gives an example of the kinds of family conflicts Native Americans experienced as they dealt with white settlers arriving in their homelands. Pocahontas, in her white European-style dress, choses to embrace this new culture through her baptism and marriage. Meanwhile, her brother wears traditional native clothing and shows his disgust at her decision by turning away from the scene as Pocahontas receives her baptism.
Perhaps no artifact in this collection better illustrates the connection between intimate relationships and broad political and social movements than this letter from Abigail Adams to her husband John. Abigail uses her personal influence over her husband to request that John and his fellow congressional delegates give consideration to the rights of women as they debate the future shape of the emerging nation.
These ads show the devastation slavery caused to African-American families. Separation of families was common during slavery, and freed slaves had few resources available to help them track down lost relatives after the Civil War.