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Herbert Singleton
The Way We Was
1990
painted wood
97 x 38 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment



Imprisoned intermittently in Louisiana for drug offenses, Singleton has carved for enjoyment and profit for more than twenty-five years. In the 1970s he portrayed the street life of ghetto neighborhoods on staffs, walking sticks, and stools. His recent carvings on house doors show biblical events and autobiographical subjects, as well as social conditions. This example makes a powerful statement about racial injustice in the Old South, represented by a white-clad Ku Klux Klan member, a lynched figure, and cotton bolls. Adjacent are snakes and crosses, symbols of temptation and redemption.