William H. Johnson
Oil on plywood
Smithsonian American Art Museum
This painting depicts Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)—who despite being born a slave went on to become a prominent African-American leader—teaching a group of students. “Johnson had a very strong political conscious,” Broun says. “He did a series called Fighters for Freedom where he painted those who had stood up for racial oppression.” This painting features a shovel, wheels, a plow, books and writing implements, tools that Washington said were vital to advancing African-Americans after Emancipation.