[guest post by RFC founder, Robert Meeropl]
For Love and Liberty, a collection of photographs of Tom Manning’s paintings was released last week. I was eager to see the finished product. I have a remarkably multi-faceted relationship with Tom Manning, given that we’ve never met.
Tom was one of the Ohio Seven (one single person and three married couples, each with three children), charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government. The trial took place in my then-hometown of Springfield, MA during 1988 and 1989. I became peripherally involved in their defense and saw him in court from time to time, but we never spoke.
The fate of the defendants’ nine children gnawed at me. I was most disturbed that Tom’s three children, aged three, five, and 11 at the time of his arrest, were confined and held in isolation from all family members for several weeks while the eldest was repeatedly interrogated. I was shocked to learn this. Bad as my childhood had been after my parents’ arrest, I had never been confined or interrogated. The treatment of the Ohio Seven children is what inspired me to start the Rosenberg Fund for Children, and two of Tom’s children became its first beneficiaries.
Since then, Tom and I have exchanged a few letters. I shared my memoir with him in 2003 and he reciprocated by sending me two of his oil paintings. They hung on my RFC office wall for over a decade. My favorite was of Cassandra Wilson. She stared out at me as she turned away from her piano with the sheet music of Strange Fruit, which she introduced to a new generation in 1990’s, in the background. Now a photograph of that painting, and some 80 others, fill this beautiful book.
The photographer, Penny Schoner, contacted me in late 2012 and asked if I’d write the preface for the collection. I was honored, but put her off until after I retired as the RFC Executive Director; it was the first project I completed after my daughter, Jenn, took over as Executive Director last September. My opening lines were, “I’m overwhelmed by the talent, indomitable will, and purity of heart displayed here. To say that I am awed by this book does not do it justice.”
Tom Manning helped begin and end my RFC leadership. He closes his autobiographical essay in the book with this quote “The revolution is never begun anew, only continued where others left off…”
A portion of proceeds from the sales of For Love and Liberty will benefit the Rosenberg Fund for Children.
Tom Manning is a freedom fighter, political prisoner and prolific artist. His paintings are stories that jump off the page, revealing the outlook of people who struggle for liberation around the world. His paintings are about life and his landscapes recall times of importance. Tom is currently incarcerated at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina as a result of revolutionary actions undertaken while a member of the United Freedom Front.
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