"General Marion Inviting A British Officer To Share His Meal. John Blake White, about 1810-1815, 24-1/2" x 29-1/2", gift of Dr. Octavius A. White, 1899, Accepted by Senate Res. 510, 55th Congress, Senate wing, third floor, south corridor.

OSCAR MARION — AFRICAN-AMERICAN PATRIOT

For years when people gazed at the famous Revolutionary War painting by Charleston lawyer John Blake White (1781-1859) entitled, “General Marion Inviting A British Officer to Share his Meal,” which has hung in the third-floor corridor of the Senate wing of the United States Capitol since 1899, it has been known that it was the legendary Brigadier General Francis Marion or “Swamp Fox” who is depicted in the military hat and blue coat talking to red-coated British General Banastre Tarleton.

For about 230 years, the African-American depicted in the painting kneeling behind a small table while roasting sweet potatoes on the fire and who Francis Marion extends his hand to, has been anonymous. In books written about Francis Marion, this African-American is described as “the faithful Negro servant” and known to museum curators and historians as “a black patriot.” This man had a life and a separate contribution to America. But now this patriot is no longer anonymous.

He was Oscar Marion, the personal slave of Francis Marion. “Legend has it they were childhood friends,” says Tina C. Jones, a Maryland-based genealogist and President of the American Historical Interpretation Foundation, Inc. in Rockville. Jones, a decedent of Oscar Marion, learned of his identity while researching the Marion branch of her family — some of whom were among the some 200 slaves who lived on the large Marion plantation in Berkeley County, SC. “He is not just some obscure figure in the background. This person had a name,” Jones said.

Oscar Marion fought along side of Francis Marion during the seven years of the Revolutionary War which is a lot longer than most of the other men served. Jones found references to Francis Marion and the slave who always accompanied him who was sometimes just referred to as Oscar. When Jones learned of Oscar Marion’s identity, she presented her research to the Office of the Senate Curator in Washington, DC, who cares for the 80 paintings and other fine art in the Senate’s collection.

In a special ceremony led by Reverend Daniel P. Coughlin, House Chaplain, and attended by several congressmen at our nation’s capitol on Friday, December 15, 2006, Oscar Marion was recognized as the “African-American Patriot” he always was. A proclamation signed by President George W. Bush expressed the thanks of a “grateful nation” and praised Oscar Marion’s “devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States.”

General Francis Marion's Sweet Potato Dinner

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