Women Builders

Johnson's painting Women Builders honors the achievements of African-American women who worked to expand educational opportunities for African-American youth in the United States. These women overcame difficult obstacles and racial prejudice to develop important institutions of higher learning that benefited many generations of African Americans.


Women Builders, 1945
oil on paperboard
95.7 x 86.7 cm (37 5/8 x 34 1/8 in.)
Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Who are these Women Builders?

Click on any of the women in the painting above or on one of the names below:

Lucy Craft Laney
Charlotte Hawkins Brown
Maggie Lena Walker
Jane Edna Hunter
Mary McLeod Bethune
Janie Porter Barrett
Nannie Helen Burroughs

(The woman on the right in the middle row remains unidentified.)


Work on these activities after fully exploring Women Builders.
Select a woman from your community who has made an important contribution to your life or the lives of people around you--a teacher, relative, someone from your church or synagogue, a political figure, musician, entertainer or writer, for example. Find out all you can about the woman you selected. Set up an interview with her, if you can. Then create a collage or drawing that highlights her accomplishments.

Each of the Women Builders depicted in Johnson's painting established institutions of one sort or another. There are many other ways that African-American women have made contributions to society that do not involve creating specific institutions and places of learning. Select one of the following "women builders" and write a report on her achievements: Toni Morrison, Lois Mailou Jones, Jane Pittman, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, Coretta Scott King, Alice Walker, Jocelyn Elders, or Barbara Jordan.