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Gen. Benjamin Helm Bristow

Gen. Benjamin Helm Bristow
Artist
Philip Oskar Jenkins, 1817 - Aug 1892
Sitter
Benjamin Helm Bristow, 20 Jun 1832 - 22 Jun 1896
Date
1874
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
76.4cm x 63.5cm (30 1/16" x 25"), Accurate
Topic
Interior
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Mustache
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Goatee
Benjamin Helm Bristow: Male
Benjamin Helm Bristow: Law and Law Enforcement\Lawyer
Benjamin Helm Bristow: Politics and Government\Cabinet Member\Secretary of Treasury
Benjamin Helm Bristow: Military and Intelligence\Army\Officer\Civil War
Benjamin Helm Bristow: Politics and Government\State Attorney General\Kentucky
Benjamin Helm Bristow: Politics and Government\State Senator\Kentucky
Portrait
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.72.104
Exhibition Label
Born Elkton, Kentucky
Benjamin Helm Bristow strove to protect African Americans from white supremacists in the District of Kentucky. As U.S. attorney (1866–70), Bristow enforced the Civil Rights Act of 1866, ensuring the citizenship rights of African Americans. During Reconstruction, Kentucky was under a “rule of terror,” as armed militia groups rode the countryside whipping, torturing, and stealing without consequence.
Using the writ of habeas corpus, Bristow transferred cases to federal courts when Black people were prevented from testifying in state courts. Bristow wrote, “It is a matter of the first importance to the 225,000 Colored people of this state that the so-called ‘Civil Rights’ law of Congress should be maintained and enforced.” He successfully prosecuted twenty-nine cases, and Kentucky was one of the few states where the Civil Rights Act was enforced. However, federal enforcement acts became ineffective after United States v. Cruikshank (1876) and United States v. Reese (1876).
Nacido en Elkton, Kentucky
Benjamin Helm Bristow luchó por proteger a los afroamericanos de los supremacistas blancos en el Distrito de Kentucky. Como fiscal federal (1866–70), hizo cumplir la Ley de Derechos Civiles de 1866, que garantizaba derechos de ciudadanía de los afroamericanos. Durante la Reconstrucción, Kentucky padeció un “reino de terror” mientras milicias armadas rondaban por el área rural azotando, torturando y robando impunemente.
Mediante órdenes de habeas corpus, Bristow transfería a los tribunales federales los casos estatales en que se impedía testificar a los afroamericanos. En sus palabras: “Es de importancia suprema para las 225,000 personas de color de este estado que la llamada ley de ‘Derechos Civiles’ del Congreso se mantenga y se cumpla”. Ganó 29 casos y Kentucky fue uno de los pocos estados donde se hizo cumplir la Ley de Derechos Civiles. Sin embargo, las leyes de cumplimiento federales perdieron su eficacia después de Estados Unidos v. Cruikshank (1876) y Estados Unidos v. Reese (1876).
Provenance
Sadie F. Noll, New Bedford, Mass.; purchased 1972 NPG
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition
2022 Rehang of Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900
On View
NPG, East Gallery 123
Exhibition
Reconstruction Gallery
On View
NPG, East Gallery 123