Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why One of the Wise Men is Black

This image is part of a weekly series that The Root is presenting in conjunction with the Image of the Black in Western Art Archive at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute, part of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

In this intriguing evocation of a time-honored Christian theme, three kingly figures pay homage to the newly born Christ child. According to the biblical account in the Book of Matthew, these are the Magi, or wise men, who have followed a star from the East to find the birthplace of Jesus. In later tradition they are also described as kings of the principal regions of the world.

Their arrival at the stable represents the event of Epiphany, the manifestation of the long-prophesized salvation of mankind through the incarnation of God on Earth. The event occurred by tradition 12 days after the actual birth of Jesus and is celebrated by the Western Christian church on Jan. 6.

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