He seemed worn-out and tired. There was a warm glow that surrounded the outer edges of the frame. We locked eyes for what seemed like minutes, but it had only been a few seconds. I could see his pain and even imagined what it would have been like to be in his shoes at that very moment. My heart became heavy and part of me wanted to scream out in anger while the other part of me wanted to weep. His eyes said everything to me. He had been judged by the color of his skin. He had been ridiculed, beaten, spat upon, cursed at and abused, but none of these things could break his spirit. As he prepared for his final moments on this earth his body stood erect, strong, and steadfast. He knew that this life was temporary. I could not help the fact that I wanted to jump in and save him from his impending fate. The crowd around him gloated and smiled from ear to ear as if they had just claimed their winnings for capturing the biggest and wildest animal. Their eyes spoke of hatred, confusion, and ignorance. At first glance I hated all of them, but as time went on I only felt sorry for them. Only if we could move on from this place I thought, but I realized it had been too late. It had been about 200 years too late. The man I so deeply connect with was a colored man who had been falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, and was beaten in front of a large white crowd before being hanged publicly. The inscription on the back of the photograph read something to the effect of “We got us one”. There were a series of photographs that showed this colored man’s impending execution.
This was the journal entry I made over ten years ago when I first discovered Frank Embree’s picture as an undergraduate student at Columbia University. My hope is that this film will keep his memory alive.