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Research Paper Example: The Use of Art to Depict History of African American

4 pages
878 words
Boston College
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The White Americans despised the black Americans in the ancient time. The White Americans considered the black Americans as lesser human beings because they worked as slaves with little or no pay. The black Americans did not have rights and therefore the majority did acquire formal education. The Black Americans were not represented in the leadership positions of the country because they did not have voting rights. The White Americans view the Blacks as their properties because they work in farms to protect the properties for the White people. As time advanced, human rights activists began to mobilize resources to fight for the rights of the black people. There were a number of demonstrations and the rise of strong human rights activist in the country that pushed for the recognition of the affairs of the black people. In this essay, there will a description of three artworks that explain the history of African Americans.

Am Not a man and A brother?

This was a large bold woodcut image of a supplicant male slave who was in chains, which were in the year of 1837. The title of the publication that the art appeared was Our Countrymen in Chains. The art was associated with antislavery and carried with at two special messages in relation to slavery (Rodgers 50). One of the messages was the punishment that was supposed to be laid on someone who sells another person as a slave. The other message was more of a comparison between England and the US. It claimed that England was able to set free it's 800,000 slaves while on the other hand, America was not ready to set free the 2, 250,000slves she had. The art was based on the American Anti-Slavery Society. In this case, the art marks the history of African Americans who were slaves of the White American. Often, the word slave is taken to mean Black people. The woodcut image Our Countrymen In Chains helps remind people of the history of African American and their struggles to attain freedom.

Jacob Lawrence. War Series: Victory. 1947

Jacob war series art describes his experience in the war as a black American at that time. In the year 1947, he received the Guggenheim Fellowship to paint the war series. The series had 14 panels, which present a narrative and that progresses from the shipping out of the soldiers to the victory of the war. Jacob adopts the silhouetted figure, simplified; overlapping profiles and prominent eyes, which are typical of the Egyptians wall paintings, and in the art uses the ancient style to transform the group of figures into surface patterns, eschewing modeling and the perspective in the favor of the abstract form (Ott 59). The art covered the main events during the war, the intense action during the war as well as the explanation of the fact that one cannot tell a complete story with a single painting. In the pursuit of understanding the American history and the history of African Americans, it is paramount to consider the Jacob war series.

William Johnson. Chain Gang. 1939

The paint by Johnson is about the Chain Gang; blacks in jail and the different kind of things they had to handle while in prison. This was clear from the jail uniforms worn by the blacks in the painting and the pick-axes. It clearly covered some of the hardships the black went through back the in the year it was painted in 1939. The painting had different themes such as the oppression of the black during the era and their determination to stand up against these oppressions as per the different tools they held in the picture. In addition, the matching in the uniform makes it hard for the viewer to separate the prisoners, which show how the inmates were treated despite your crime as long as you were an African American you were all subjected to the same kind of treatment (Barden, 34). The art covers different things, which showed the oppressive nature of the life is the African Americans lived. The artist chose to make the artwork because it is significant in explaining the trouble that was facing African American slaves in American in the ancient time. The pain of slavery characterized the lives of African Americans. It is apparent that the history of African Americans has a close association with slavery.

In conclusion, the artwork such as Our Countrymen In Chains, Jacob war series art and Chain Gang mark the history of African Americans. The three artworks provide evidence of African American in slavery, their strategies for fighting for freedom and their rights. The artwork preserves the history of African American because they have a date when the art was made. The different artworks carries different meaning regarding the African American history. For example, Our Countrymen in Chains was symbol standing for the abolition of slavery. The chain Gang helps explain the nature of oppression that African an Americans went through during the slavery.


Work Cited

Rodgers, Daniel T. "Worlds of Reform." OAH Magazine of History 20.5 (2006): 49-54.

Ott, John. "Battle Station MoMA: Jacob Lawrence and the Desegregation of the Armed Forces and the Art World." American Art 29.3 (2015): 58-89.

Barden, Kimya Pearl. "Remembering the cultural trauma legacies of slavery: African American young adult perceptions on racism, ethnic identity, and racial socialization." (2013).


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