Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This painting contains a portrait of a mother and daughter, as well as a still life of objects on a table. The mother looks down at her child, and the little girl looks directly at the viewer.
- Beulah’s Baby was painted in 1948, during racial segregation in America. This was the separation of white people and people of color in public places, including schools. Segregation was enforced by Jim Crow laws. Poverty was common in Black communities in the South during this time.
- Artist Primrose McPherson Paschal was a white woman from Raleigh. She studied art in New York City and later joined the art scene in Raleigh and Durham. Her work continues to be shown throughout North Carolina.
Primrose McPherson Paschal’s tender portrait of a mother and child displays a tabletop still life that includes a chipped teacup and a handsome bouquet—a blessing of beauty in the constrained circumstances that characterized the segregated South of the mid-20th century.
The artist uses the paired generations to poetically reflect on the mother-daughter relationship. The mother gazes adoringly, her arm draped protectively on the child, who stands with the resilience of unencumbered youth, fixing the viewer with an intense look full of questioning and hope.
“Beulah,” whose real name is Evelyn Leaverson Davis (1928–1993), was born and raised in Greensboro, NC. When this painting was created, she was nineteen and a first-year student at North Carolina A&T State University. Evelyn’s sister, Dorothy “Dot” Morton, worked as a housekeeper for Paschal and introduced the pair after needing Evelyn’s assistance one day.
The child in this painting was not Evelyn’s, though she did have a newborn son at the time. She was the daughter of a family friend who sat with Evelyn for the photo session in Paschal’s studio.
Resources for Teachers
- Read a blog post about Primrose McPherson Paschal.
- Read an article about black codes and Jim Crow laws.
- Take a voting literacy test (at the end of this article).
Resources for Students