Don’t Tread on Me, God Damn, Let’s Go! — The Harlem Hellfighters

Media - 2022.25 - SAAM-2022.25_1 - 146159
Copied Bisa Butler, Don't Tread on Me, God Damn, Let's Go! - The Harlem Hellfighters, 2021, cottons, silk, wool, and velvet, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of David Bonderman, 2022.25, © 2022, Bisa Butler

Artwork Details

Title
Don’t Tread on Me, God Damn, Let’s Go! — The Harlem Hellfighters
Artist
Date
2021
Dimensions
109 12 × 156 in.
Copyright
© 2022, Bisa Butler
Credit Line
Gift of David Bonderman
Mediums Description
cottons, silk, wool, and velvet
Classifications
Keywords
  • History — United States — Black History
  • History — United States — World War I
Object Number
2022.25

Artwork Description

In this monumental quilt, Bisa Butler brings to life the history and emotions of nine members of the 369th Infantry Regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters, a segregated unit of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. Drawing from the wellsprings of African American quilting traditions and the Kool-Aid colors of the Black Power art movement, Butler pieced together layers of dazzling textiles to connect this present moment to the past.

 

“I look to their example to see for myself that the triumphs we experience today will outlast tyrants and that nothing can ever erase them—not time, not death. These protectors of our nation fought and put their very bodies and their lives on the line. My work is to continue to lift them up in history so they can be seen in public spaces, where their heroic sacrifices become part of the American quest to fight against oppression and for freedom.” —Bisa Butler

 

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, 2022

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Quilt featuring the portrait of a woman
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World
May 13, 2022April 2, 2023
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World showcases the dynamic landscape of American craft today. The exhibition highlights the role that artists play in our world to spark essential conversations, stories of resilience, and methods of activism—showing us a more relational and empathetic world. It centers more expansive definitions and acknowledgments of often-overlooked histories and contributions of women, people of color, and other marginalized communities.