not but nothing other: African-American Portrayals, 1930s to Today

Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012)
Harriet, 1975

With a rifle gripped in her left hand and her right arm extended—pointed North toward freedom—a militant and heroic Harriet Tubman helps a group of enslaved people escape on the Underground Railroad. Tubman herself had been born into bondage on a plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland sometime around 1820. After her escape in 1849, she would repeatedly return to the South to aid other fugitives, becoming renowned as the "Moses of her people" and a significant voice in the abolitionist movement. John Brown called her "General" Tubman and it is that fierceness we see here. Elizabeth Catlett depicts her as a way to "present black people in their beauty and dignity for others and ourselves to understand and enjoy."

Catlett's studies at Howard University with painter and art historian James A. Porter and later at El Taller de Gráfica Popular (People's Graphic Workshop) in Mexico City trained her to use art for educational purposes. For this reason, many of her prints focus on the plight of working people as well as the multidimensional aspects of Black women's labor. She often made linocuts and other sorts of prints to reach a wide audience inexpensively.

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