click for larger image

Throughout the 30s, Aaron Douglas continued and expanded the project he and others began in the 1920s. As he stated in his speech to the American Artists' Congress in 1936, "our chief concern has been to establish and maintain recognition of our essential humanity, in other words, complete social and political equality" (qtd. in Patton, 143). Douglas accomplished this goal, to stand "free within himself" by employing and synthesizing a number of contemporary techniques and perspectives. What is also significant is that, in the 30s, he did this through a medium that large quantities of people could easily access. Whether at an institution of higher education, reminding college students of a past they should know and explore rather than shun or be shameful of, at the New York Public Library or the Harlem YMCA, community centers during the Depression just as they are today, at a housing project in Atlantic City or the Texas Centennial in 1936, Douglas' murals offered an antidote to the "propaganda" that took all forms, whether they be "nursery rhymes" or "false scientific theories" (qtd. in Patton, 143), making the racial mountain that much more surmountable.