Booker T. Washington Revelation

William H. Johnson, Booker T. Washington Revelation, ca. 1945, oil on fiberboard (Upson Board), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.1143
Copied William H. Johnson, Booker T. Washington Revelation, ca. 1945, oil on fiberboard (Upson Board), 39 7830 78 in. (101.378.4 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.1143

Artwork Details

Title
Booker T. Washington Revelation
Date
ca. 1945
Dimensions
39 7830 78 in. (101.378.4 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on fiberboard (Upson Board)
Classifications
Keywords
  • Figure group
  • Occupation — education
  • African American
  • History — United States — Black History
  • Portrait male — Washington, Booker T.
Object Number
1967.59.1143

Artwork Description

In June 1881, Booker T. Washington (1856--1915), an honors graduate of Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), was invited to establish a school for African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama. When he arrived, he discovered there were no funds for buildings, so classes met in a dilapidated shanty lent by a church. Within months Washington had borrowed money, purchased a one-hundred-acre farm, and put students to work constructing buildings. By the time Washington died, Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute consisted of more than one hundred structures, fifteen hundred students, a faculty of nearly two hundred, academic and vocational courses in more than thirty-five fields of study, and an endowment of approximately $2 million.

Although Washington was an advisor to presidents and had powerful friends in American industry, Johnson chose to surround Washington with people and structures representing Tuskegee Institute's remarkable success. At the right, a plow, shovels, and other implements testify to Washington's belief in the importance of vocational education. Images of Science Hall, the Agricultural Building, the Chapel, and other structures reflect Washington's vision of a school where students could live and study in well-equipped surroundings. Johnson also featured portraits of John W. Washington, Robert R. Taylor, Warren Logan, Emmett Jay Scott, and Olivia Davidson, people who were instrumental to Tuskegee's growth and success. 

Exhibitions

Media - 1967.59.1146 - SAAM-1967.59.1146_2 - 141130
Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice
March 8, 2024September 10, 2024
William H. Johnson's Fighters for Freedom series from the mid-1940s is a tribute to African American activists, scientists, teachers, and performers as well as international leaders working to bring peace to the world.