THE ICON: Oscar Dunn
THE LEGACY: Born a slave around 1822 in New Orleans, Oscar Dunn died before turning 50. But in that time, despite never having the benefit of formal schooling, he accomplished what many would have once deemed impossible. Just three years after the Civil War, Dunn became Louisiana’s first black lieutenant governor — and to that point the highest-ranking black elected official in the nation’s history. He also was a rare unifying force in a city known for its racial divisions, using his widely recognized integrity and political savvy to serve as a bridge between the city’s black Creole community, its black African community and its white community. He was, in a word, beloved — no small task in Louisiana politics.
THE ARTIST: Queen Hope Parker, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “Perhaps no public event has produced a demonstration so large in every respect and withal so orderly and attended with more impressive solemnity. It was not only participated in by people of his own race, but by a large part of the white population who have felt for the deceased a genuine respect.” — The Daily Picayune, on the funeral of Oscar Dunn in November 1871