may 1936

Founded in the 1920′s as a security force for the Ku Klux Klan, The Black Legion were a white supremacist organisation, prevalent in the Midwest of the United States. By the mid-1930′s, they had accumulated 20,000 to 30,000 members, mainly lower-class Southern Protestant whites. They perpetrated violence predominantly against African Americans, who they felt had stolen their jobs while completely disregarding that they lacked any useful skills for said jobs. They also targeted Catholics, Jews, labor unions, farm cooperatives and fraternal groups.

On 12 May, 1936, the organisation kidnapped Charles A. Poole, a Works Progress Administration organiser. Poole, a French Catholic, had married a Protestant. They shot him dead and it was this murder that eventually led to their downfall. It is believed that they killed up to fifty people in Detroit alone.

“Medallion,” by Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein), 1936. A portrait of the artist (right) with Nesta Obermer.

“If I was able to write the most divine poetry to you it would still fall short of what I feel.” — Gluck, in a letter to Nesta.

“‘Medallion’ is a portrait of Gluck in love with Nesta Obermer … She called ‘Medallion’ the ‘YouWe’ picture … [it] celebrated Gluck’s ‘marriage’ to Nesta on 25 May 1936. In subsequent diaries Gluck marked this date as her YouWe anniversary. At some point they exchanged rings … Gluck enjoyed both the provocative content of the picture and tantalizing people with the relationship it implied. Openness and yet secrecy, bravado, but reticence too … She thought her love for Nesta strong enough to overcome all opposition, surmount all problems and last forever. She saw it as a homecoming, an answer to all problems, an end to loneliness and the realization of a romantic ideal. Years later, in her seventies, she confided that Nesta had been the only woman she had ever really loved. And in her old age Nesta was to say that only once had she been in love. Perhaps this love was with Gluck. Theirs was to be an absolute marriage outside of society’s terms.”

From Gluck: Her Biography, by Diana Souhami (1989).