Soldiers Training

  • William H. Johnson, Soldiers Training, ca. 1942, oil on plywood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.582

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Pearl Harbor inspired two government-sponsored art exhibitions in 1942, for which William H. Johnson painted scenes of African Americans involved in the war effort. Soldiers Training contrasts the patriotism of black enlistees with the military’s segregationist policies. Black soldiers served in their own units, “black” blood was kept separate from “white,” and recruits took on the most menial jobs at Army bases and aboard ships. Johnson may have painted this scene based on reports of the “Buffalo Soldiers” who were training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Set in a desolate camp ringed by mountains, Soldiers Training suggests the isolation that black soldiers experienced among hundreds of thousands of men and women committed to winning the war.

Title
Soldiers Training
Artist
Date
ca. 1942
On View
Dimensions
37 3/4 x 49 1/4 in. (95.9 x 125.1 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on plywood
Classifications
Keywords
  • Object – other – flag
  • Object – weapon – gun
  • Ethnic – African-American
  • Occupation – military – soldier
  • History – United States – World War II
  • Figure group – male
Object Number
1967.59.582
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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