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

Remembering That People Matter–Victorian Style

As I was reading the book called Women In Atlanta by Staci Catron-Sullivan and Susan Neill, I came across this featured photograph of a 19th Century black woman wearing an embellished Victorian Dress.  Staci and Susan draw the eyes to the young lady’s hand which appears to be covering a necklace charm.  They state, “The sitter appears to shield an object and may be concealing a slave hire badge. . . . If hired-out slaves were found without the proper badge, they were arrested, and their masters were forced to pay fines for their return.”

1848 Free Slave TagAtlanta, Georgia City HallCourtesy:

1848 Free Slave Tag
Atlanta, Georgia City Hall

Then I remembered the Labor Behind the Veil tour in Milledgeville, Georgia.  Often slaves were arrested and their legal tags were taken from them by the captors.  As a result, many slaves and free people of color were then taken to the auction block and resold to new slave owners.  Either circumstance, shielding one’s identity was critical to survival during the era of slavery.  If you are following the story of Lavinia Flagg, she and Wilkes were sold back into slavery after leaving the state of Georgia and returning.

Because someone knew that Wilkes and Lavinia mattered as human beings, the Wilkes family freedom was reestablished after $750 in fines were paid. Historians tend to focus on the peculiar institution of slavery.  However, many rarely look at slavery from the slave or free person of color’s perspective.  This is why the masses have lost interest in Civil War history which has become primarily about the Generals, the Battlefields, and the progression of the Industrial Revolution.

I don’t want the Wilkes’ love story and similar Civil War stories to be hidden within hundreds of pages of books.  As the authors of Women in Atlanta point out, these stories are about people, not property; and their life experiences deserve to be shared globally.  Love, Faith, and Hope are relevant in 2013. This is why its important to remember that people will always matter.

Highlighting the good in humanity,
Ann DeWitt