Skip navigation
Thoughts of the Future (Thoughts of Liberia, Emancipation)

Object Name: Genre
Date: 1861
Related People:
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall (unframed): 18 x 21 in. (45.7 x 53.3 cm) Overall (framed): 26 1/2 x 30 1/2 x 3 in. (67.3 x 77.5 x 7.6 cm)
Description: An African-American man, wrapped in brown coat and scarf, sits near a slightly dilapidated hearth, heating his kettle. In one hand is his cane, in the other a folded newspaper; his hat sits on the floor nearby. In the top right corner are his painter's tools. Pinned to the door is a poster marked "Hayti."
Credit Line: The Robert L. Stuart Collection, the gift of his widow Mrs. Mary Stuart
Object Number: S-200
Send to a Friend

Gallery Label:

The subject of this painting is probably a freeman, since most slaves were forbidden to read. The title informs us that the man's thoughts have wandered to Liberia, where the American Colonization Society was organizing a resettlement of freed slaves. The reference to "Hayti" is a reminder of the fight for freedom in that French colony, as well as the social and political turmoil that followed. Slaves in Haiti won their freedom in 1804, after a 13 year war against their French owners.


Holzer, Harold, ed. "Lincoln and New York." New York: The New-York Historical Society and London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., 2009.

Dayer Gallati, Barbara, ed. Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy. London: New-York Historical Society, in association with D Giles Limited, 2011.


"Vice Versa: German Painters in America, American Painters in Germany," German Historical Museum, Berlin, Germany, September–December, 1996.

"Bold, Cautious, True: Walt Whitman and American Art of the Civil War," Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN, July 5, 2009–January 24, 2010.

"John Rogers: American Stories," Palmer Museum of Art, University Park, PA, February 22–May 15, 2011; Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN, June 19–October, 2011; New-York Historical Society, November 2, 2012–February 17, 2013.

"From Colony to Nation: 200 Years of American Painting at the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society, June 7–September 8, 2013.