Perfecting the Duchenne Smile–Victorian Style

In case you haven’t noticed, all of the 19th Century featured photographs of women on my BLOG have a natural smile, which is also known in the scientific world as the Duchenne Smile. Guillaume Duchenne, a French physician, studied the physiology of facial expressions during the 1800s.  This type of smile is the natural raising of the corner of the mouth and cheek bones. Tyra Banks, renowned supermodel, dubbed this in the 21st Century as the Smize.

Thus, one of the most important techniques I have to master as a Civil War Living Historian is the Duchenne Smile.  One would think smiling with the corner of the mouth and the cheek bones would be very easy to do; however, after a lifetime of taking pictures with the fake “Say Cheese” smile, achieving the Duchenne Smile is indeed a challenge.

The featured photograph is courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.  As you can see, the unidentified woman has a natural smile through the corner of her mouth and cheek bones.

For those who are new to this topic, see the Youtube video titled “Smize” by America’s Top Model.  Enjoy!


Sitting Together at the Table of Sisterhood–Victorian Style

“But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a believer that “nonviolence is the strongest approach.” In his Montgomery, Alabama 1957 sermon titled “Loving Your Enemies,” Dr. King preached “Discover the element of good in [your] enemy, and everytime you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.” Then he continued to say, “When we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship.”

A 19th Century Soldier's Flag

A 19th Century
Soldier’s Flag

Thus, I surround myself with those who likewise believe in nonviolence, love, and the capacity to forgive. Nonviolence, love, and forgiveness coupled with the dream component of image are ingredients to Dr. King’s dream for “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners [to] be able to sit together at the table of Brotherhood.”

Even though some in very high places have dubbed me as a Neo-Confederate for The Lost Cause, nonetheless, I am committed to remembering African-Americans who served in various capacities with the Confederate States Army because they too earned recognition as United States Military Veterans. Therefore, I remind my oppressors of Dr. King’s dream of Brotherhood/Sisterhood and his words on how I am to respond in regards to nonviolent resistance. Dr. King said, “Nonviolent resistance does resist. It is dynamically active. It is passive physically, but it is active spiritually.”

In this humble spirit, I sit at the table with the descendants of Confederate Soldiers. Thus, on this day of remembrance, I am actively living Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.

Highlighting the good in humanity,
Ann DeWitt

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Quote On Forgiveness

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s
Quote on Forgiveness
Courtesy of

Walking Behind the Veil–Victorian Style

Deitrah Taylor, Old Governor's Mansion Resident Expert

Deitrah Taylor
Resident Expert
Old Governors Mansion
Courtesy: Georgia College

History cannot be constricted behind a classroom desk or a computer screen.  To really understand the essence of historical events, one must seek out the resident experts on the subject matter. Hence, I sought after the Milledgeville, Georgia gurus on my Living Historian persona, Lavinia Flagg.

As I ventured out to find more information about Lavinia Flagg, Resident Expert Deitrah Taylor was my tour guide for the Labor Behind the Veil tour at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion. Because slaves were to labor behind the scenes and not be seen by the public, the opportunity for me to walk in their footsteps behind the veil was quite phenomenal.

Not only did I gain insight about Georgia’s free people of color such as Wilkes and Lavinia Flagg, but also I learned about slaves such as Jim, Celia, Virginia, Emma, and Cornelius.  One witnessed Lavinia from both perspectives–slave and free–because she was indeed both at different times and locations during her lifetime behind and in front of the veil.

Also, the tour clarified several aspects which can be easily misconstrued from articles on the internet.  As an example, Lavinia was known as a personal female confidant of Georgia’s First Lady Mary Ann Cobb, wife of former Governor Howell Cobb.  To understand the dynamics, step into the shoes of a public figure who could not share intimate information with anyone else in the State of Georgia.  Somehow, Lavinia earned the trust and confidence of Mary Ann Cobb.

Because more information is readily available on Wilkes Flagg, I will have to continue to draw inspiration from other sources during the Civil War period about Lavinia.  What I do know is that the Flaggs were unlikely employed at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion during the Civil War.  History reveals the Wilkes were preparing for a future which included 1,100 acres of homeland for former slaves of Milledgeville.

Now, I better understand why former Governor Howell Cobb proclaimed Wilkes Flagg as a “miserable creature for stirring up labor unrest among freed people.”  After all, Wilkes was once the maître d’hôtel for former Governor Cobb.  Wilke’s post-Civil War master plan was personal and no longer political.  Thus, Wilkes and Lavinia serve today as role models because there comes a time when doing what is right overrules doing what’s politically correct.

Special thanks to Curator Matt Davis and Resident Expert Deitrah Taylor for taking me back in time through the Labor Behind the Veil.  The featured photograph is the only known drawing or photograph of Lavinia Flagg.