Fierce

The Little-Known History Of Grace Wisher, The Black Teen Girl Who Helped Craft The American Flag

The United States was built on the forced labor of enslaved Africans. This isn’t hyperbole, either. The strenuous work of Africans who were violently shipped to the US laid the foundation of the country, from laboring on plantations — the mainstay of the early US economy — to building streets and railroads to literally constructing the White House and the US Capitol. Less known: a young Black girl is also behind our Star-Spangled Banner.

Grace Wisher, a 13-year-old indentured servant of Mary Pickersgill, a famed flag-maker credited with designing the US flag that inspired our national anthem, helped sew the original flag, Teen Vogue reports.

According to the news outlet, Wisher was a free girl in Baltimore, Maryland who became a servant after her mother, Jenny, signed a contract with Pickersgill in 1810.

The contract details that Wisher was expected “to learn the art and mystery of housework and plain sewing,” abilities her mother believed would better prepare her for life.

“It seems as though Jenny wanted Grace to be able to learn a trade, especially as a free African-American girl,” Amanda Shores Davis, the executive director of the Star-Spangled Flag House in Baltimore, told Teen Vogue. “It would have been important for her to learn skills that could carry her through the rest of her life.”

Information on Wisher is hard to come by. Not only were the early stories of African Americans intentionally left out of history, as an indentured servant, not a slave, Wisher’s name was not mentioned in Pickersgill’s title for the house or her belongings, like the flag-maker’s enslaved servants were, Sally Johnston, former executive director of the Flag House and a Mary Pickersgill biographer, says.

In recent years, historians have been working to ensure that the young Black girl’s role in the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner is no longer erased.

In 2014, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House in Baltimore started to include the little information they had about Wisher in their exhibitions. Currently, an outline of a young girl representing Wisher sits on a plexiglass covering a popular oil painting depicting the creation of the flag. Additionally, in 2014, an exhibition titled For Whom It Stands and housed at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which documents Maryland’s African American history and culture, included Wisher’s story.

“A name like Grace Wisher, unless you’re deep into the story about the Star-Spangled Banner itself, doesn’t often come to the fore,” Wilkinson tells Teen Vogue. “That’s why I think it’s important that there’s not a single narrative. There are things we think we know, but there’s more we need to know. And certainly, Grace Wisher’s life and her contributions should not go unknown. It should be acknowledged and presented in our historical displays about this era.”

Wilkinson, who is now a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMHAAC), believes spreading this hidden history could allow African Americans and other Black Americans to see themselves, perhaps for the first time, as part of the American dream.

“The flag and the anthem are not the same thing. But because they’re related in terms of these symbols of American identity, these are places where people are invested,” she said. “And African-Americans are as invested as any other American and understand the potency of these symbols to call attention to issues that they want to see change in.”

Read: These Surprising Facts Will Explain Why Latinos Ought To Celebrate Juneteenth

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These Were The Moments That Defined Latin America In 2020 That Weren’t About COVID-19

Things That Matter

These Were The Moments That Defined Latin America In 2020 That Weren’t About COVID-19

PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

2020 will easily go down in manny of our memories as the year that just wouldn’t stop. As the year started, it all seemed to be sort of fine as the world came together to battle record-breaking Australian bushfires and worked to hopefully contain an outbreak of a strange new virus in China.

However, as the year comes to a close things have gone de mal a peor for the world in general, but for the Latino population in the United States and Latin America as a region in particular. Though it’s hard to realize just how much we all witnessed and experienced since so much of what happened seems like it was a lifetime ago.

Here’s a look back at some the defining moments from 2020 across Latin America.

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira kicked off the year hopeful with a history-making performance at the Super Bowl.

Yes, believe it or not, this happened in 2020. The pair put on what many have called the best half time show in Super Bowl history. They were also joined by J Balvin and Bad Bunny.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales was forced into exile, only to return to the country in November.

After being forced into exile at the end of 2019 for attempting to illegally run in upcoming presidential elections, Morales spent a year abroad – first in Mexico and then in Argentina.

Mexico’s President AMLO made his first trip abroad to visit Donald Trump at the White House.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is a staunch populist and has long said his primary focus is domestic policy within Mexico. Therefore, despite two years in office, AMLO hadn’t left Mexico once. So it came as a surprise when his first trip abroad was a visit to the U.S. leader who had long disparaged Mexico, the government, and Mexicans – not to mention his trip came in the middle of a global pandemic.

Migrant caravans continued to make their way towards the U.S. despite interference from Mexico and Covid-19.

Migrants attempting to make their way to the U.S. isn’t unique to 2020. For decades, migrants have long banded together for safety in numbers along the treacherous journey to the north. However, they became larger and better organized in 2020, perhaps owing to the new dangers of Mexican interference.

Mexico’s AMLO vowed to stop migrants from reaching the U.S.-Mexico border, adhering to Trump’s request. It was also noteworthy because the caravans continued despite the Covid-19 crisis, which has hit the region particularly hard.

Peru saw three presidents in the span of a few weeks after massive protests.

Peru is facing one of the greatest crises the nation has faced. Just as the country seemed to be emerging from the worst of its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has entered a severe political crisis.

The country’s elected president, Martin Vizcarra, was impeached and removed from office. His predecessor responded with a heavy hand to the protests that ensued resulting in his resignation less than 24 hours later. The government then had to find someone willing to take the job which proved to be a tough sell.

In fact, massive protests swept across Latin America.

From Mexico in the north to Cuba in the Caribbean and Chile in the south, protests were seen all across the region. Although each movement had it’s own stated goal and objectives, many were largely borne out of the same purpose: to fight back against corruption.

Brazil’s President Jaír Bolsonaro tested positive for Covid-19 but it did nothing to change his approach to the pandemic.

Jaír Bolsonaro has long been compared to Donald Trump, with many calling him the Donald Trump of South America. The two were also strongly aligned in their responses to the Coronavirus pandemic, with the pair largely downplaying the severity of the crisis.

Then, Bolsonaro became infected with the virus and many hoped it would change his view on the crisis. It didn’t.

A growing feminist movement developed in Mexico, demanding protection from a shocking rise in violence against women.

Mexico has long been battling endemic violence and the country has continued to see record-setting rates of homicides. But it was the growing rate of violence against women, particularly femicide, that gained national attention.

Women banded together and started large nationwide protests. Over the summer, women in the capital of Mexico City occupied government buildings and destroyed many of the city’s most popular monuments to hopefully get their message across. Although the movement has gained more recognition by Mexicans, the government has still failed to address their concerns. Let’s hope things are different in 2021.

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The Romance Between Frida Kahlo And Chavela Vargas Gets Renewed Attention As Long Lost Love Letters Are Uncovered

Entertainment

The Romance Between Frida Kahlo And Chavela Vargas Gets Renewed Attention As Long Lost Love Letters Are Uncovered

Jorge Silva / Getty Images

Frida Kahlo’s paintings perfectly show the artist’s whirlwind of emotions throughout her life. Her art gives a look into her passions, her pains and her loves, which went far beyond Diego Rivera. 

It’s long been known that the prolific artist had many loves throughout her life, both men and women, and including many major personalities of their time. Everyone from Tina Modotti and the politician León Trotsky were on that list in addition to her longtime companion, Diego Rivera. However, one of Kahlo’s great loves and of whom little is said was the singer Chavela Vargas.

Chavela, who was 12 years younger than Frida, spoke on several occasions about the love she had for Kahlo when her musical career began to take off, while she was “a child.” And thanks to recently discovered love letters we have a new perspective on this little known relationship.

New love letters give us details into the romance between Frida Kahlo and Chavela Vargas.

Although Chavela had claimed to have destroyed all of the love letters she received from Frida Kahlo, new love letters have recently been discovered that paint a new light on the romance.

There is one letter Kahlo had written to Carlos Pellicer, a Mexican poet, to express her feelings about the singer. She told him that after meeting Chavela she felt attracted to her from the very first moment – in some pretty steamy language.

“Today I met Chavela Vargas. Extraordinary, lesbian, what’s more, I wanted her erotically. I don’t know if she felt what I did. But I think she’s a liberal enough woman, that if she asks me, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to undress in front of her. How many times do you not want to get laid and that’s it? She, I repeat, is erotic. Is it a gift that heaven sends me?”, wrote Kahlo.

It was shortly after Kahlo wrote that letter that Chavela went to live with her and Diego at La Casa Azul. In another recently discovered letter, Vargas writes – of her time at Casa Azul – that she felt very happy and in love, as well as loved by Kahlo.

“She taught me a lot of things and I learned a so much. Without giving away too much, I held the sky with my hands, with every word, every morning,” she said.

The lovers had an intense relationship that has fascinated fans to this day.

The two had met at one of the many parties Kahlo and Rivera would host at their home in Casa Azul. The couple were prolific entertainers and often threw extravagant parties.

Before her death, Vargas detailed that night’s meeting.

“A painter friend invited me. She said: ‘There’s a party at Frida’s house tonight. Shall we go?’ I went and the atmosphere was full of people. The night passed, we sang, everyone danced, everyone entertained,” Vargas says in the documentary Chavela, released in 2017.

“I was in a daze when I saw her face, her eyes. I thought she couldn’t be a being from this world. Her eyebrows together were a swallow in flight. Without yet having the maturity of a woman in me, since I was a very young girl, I sensed that I could love that being with the most devoted love in the world, the strongest love in the world,” said the singer about Frida.

Although the romance didn’t last long thanks in part to the painter’s relationship with Diego Rivera.

Credit: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Vargas confessed that the romance didn’t last for a long time on the account of having to share the painter’s love with Diego Rivera. According to Vargas, one day Kahlo simply decided to abandon her.

“My words possibly hurt her a lot when I told her I was leaving and she told me: ‘I know. It is impossible to tie you to anybody’s life. I can’t tie you to my crutches or to my bed. Go away!’ And one day I opened the door and didn’t come back,” Vargas said.

Although the singer never spoke about whether she had intimate relationships with the painter, the romance, as well as the great love and attraction they felt for each other is something that cannot be denied.

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