First, an image by Ricardo Cortés, 2014, from “The Act of Whitening”:
For Kara Walker’s first large-scale public project, A Subtlety…, presented by Creative Time at Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Factory, Creative Time Reports features poetry, prose and illustrations related to central themes of Walker’s exhibition. Here, writer and illustrator Ricardo Cortés presents a series of drawings referencing the slave labor central to sugar’s historic manufacture.
One inspiration undoubtedly came from Edward King, The Great South (Hartford, Conn., 1875), p. 83. According to The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record, this lithograph,
Shows the reaping of the sugar cane; [B]lack fieldworkers, white overseer. Original sketch made by J. Wells Chamney who accompanied the author during 1873 and the spring and summer of 1874; the latter describes this plantation on pp. 82-83. Although relating to the post-emancipation period, the scene evokes the later antebellum years.