In the spring of 1865, a seemingly unremarkable dishcloth played a crucial role in ending the Civil War as the South’s flag of surrender at Appomattox. A Confederate horseman carried a humble white linen towel into the lines of General George Custer, near the courthouse at Appomattox. The horseman was sent on behalf of General Robert E. Lee, who was requesting a suspension of hostilities while General Ulysses S. Grant proposed terms of surrender.
Focusing on this Confederate Flag of Truce, Afro-Caribbean American artist (and professor at Amherst College) Sonya Clark (born 1967) explores the legacy of symbols and challenges the power of propaganda, erasures and omissions through her works. By making the Truce Flag—a cloth that brokered peace and represented the promise of reconciliation—into a monumental alternative to the infamous Confederate Battle Flag and its pervasive divisiveness, Clark instigates a role reversal and aims to correct a historical imbalance.