Try to pose like the figure in the foreground of this print. How does it feel to stand this way? How would you describe her stance? What do you think she is pointing towards?
Harriet Tubman, the central figure in this print, escaped from slavery in 1849. She became a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, a covert system used to transport enslaved people in the South to freedom in the North. Wielding a gun and directing others to freedom, Tubman’s powerful gesture and larger-than life scale underscore her heroic status in the American consciousness.
Working to improve the lives of African Americans on multiple fronts, artist Elizabeth Catlett depicts a historical figure who fought to do the same thing in her own era. Catlett’s bold and expressive style shows the influence of her time in Mexico. The artist, who initially visited Mexico City on a fellowship in 1946, lived and worked in that country for the rest of her life. Catlett felt a kinship with Mexican artists, such as Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, who critiqued social and political inequality in their work.
What do we think about the “heroes” of American history? What do we think about their legacy? What is a legacy? How does time change our understanding of someone’s legacy?
What freedoms did African Americans hold in 1849, when Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery? In 1975, when Elizabeth Catlett created this work?
What can the past teach us about the present?
Exhibition sponsored by Kenneth C. Griffin
Learning and engagement programming for We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy is sponsored by:
Sarah and Ross Perot, Jr. Foundation | Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates, & Woodyard, P.L.L.C. | Johnny and Jeanie Morris, Bass Pro Shops | Alturas Foundation | Harriet and Warren Stephens, Stephens Inc. | Sotheby’s | Bob and Becky Alexander | Marybeth and Micky Mayfield | Lamar and Shari Steiger | Jeff and Sarah Teague / Citizens Bank | Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities | Avis and Bill Bailey | Scarlett and Neff Basore | June Carter Family | Terri and Chuck Erwin | Jackye and Curtis Finch | The Harrison and Rhonda French Family | Jim and Susan von Gremp | Laurice Hachem | Shannon and Charles Holley | Valorie and Randy Lawson / Lawco Energy Group | Donna and Mack McLarty | Steve and Susan Nelson | Neal and Gina Pendergraft | Helen Porter | JT and Imelda Rose | Lee and Linda Scott | Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Catherine and Michael Mayton, Trustees | William Reese Company