From slavery to civil rights

American art shows us the reality and effects of racism and slavery, and often points the way to social justice.

Turning Uncle Tom’s Cabin upside down, Alison Saar’s Topsy
Turning Uncle Tom’s Cabin upside down, Alison Saar’s Topsy

A Greek myth and the American anti-Slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin combine to upend our own contemporary myths

A beacon of hope, Aaron Douglas’s <em>Aspiration</em>
A beacon of hope, Aaron Douglas’s Aspiration

One of two panels to survive the Texas Centennial, pointing to a future free of racism.

An unflinching memorial to Civil Rights martyrs, Thornton Dial’s <em>Blood and Meat</em>
An unflinching memorial to Civil Rights martyrs, Thornton Dial’s Blood and Meat

An unflinching memorial to civil rights martyrs by the contemporary artist Thorton Dial

Martyr or murderer? <em>The Last Moments of John Brown</em>
Martyr or murderer? The Last Moments of John Brown

John Brown has polarized political opinion from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.

Horace Pippin, <em>Mr. Prejudice</em>
Horace Pippin, Mr. Prejudice

The ongoing struggle against discrimination in the U.S. undermined the sense of victory for African Americans in both world wars.

An African muslim among the founding fathers, Charles Willson Peale’s <em>Yarrow Mamout</em>
An African muslim among the founding fathers, Charles Willson Peale’s Yarrow Mamout

How a portrait of an African muslim came to hang side-by-side with the founding fathers in one of America's earliest museums.

The triangle trade and the colonial table, sugar, tea, and slavery
The triangle trade and the colonial table, sugar, tea, and slavery

Global trade in a cup of tea: Colonial America, sugar and slavery.

Cleaning the museum—maintenance art
Cleaning the museum—maintenance art

The artist asks us if maintaining can be as important as creating.

An artifact of racism: a Connecticut Klan robe
An artifact of racism: a Connecticut Klan robe

Artifacts like this are key for reminding us of a history of racism that is all too easy to forget.

Work, war, and racism: Bearden’s <em>Factory Workers</em>
Work, war, and racism: Bearden’s Factory Workers

During World War II, racism flourished the United States even as the war effort sought to bring people together.

Carving out a life after slavery
Carving out a life after slavery

This eclectic assortment of carved objects speaks to the experience of a formerly-enslaved man in the post-Civil War South.

A Harlem street scene by Jacob Lawrence, <em>Ambulance Call</em>
A Harlem street scene by Jacob Lawrence, Ambulance Call

Lawrence captures the vitality of Harlem and highlights the issues around access to medical care for people of color.