This exhibition is drawn entirely from the collection of more than 1,000 works by William H. Johnson given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum by the Harmon Foundation in 1967. Since that time, SAAM has organized exhibitions and installations of Johnson’s work and pursued an ongoing program of conservation for these fragile paintings.
The exhibition is organized by Virginia Mecklenburg, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from Art Bridges, Faye and Robert Davidson, and the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation.
Explore the Fighters for Freedom
Decode imagery and discover hidden stories in artist William H. Johnson's Fighters for Freedom series. Reflect on connections between the individuals portrayed, from iconic to lesser-known, and how past struggles for justice may relate to the present.
Explore the biographies of the figures William H. Johnson portrayed in eight of his Fighters for Freedom paintings, as well as the artist himself. Close-looking questions, primary source connections, and reflection prompts are included in this Sutori resource.
Uncover meaning behind the imagery embedded in William H. Johnson's Fighters for Freedom paintings through this Smithsonian Learning Lab collection. Explore Johnson's visual references and historical source material, and discover little-known figures in Black history.
By almost any standard, William H. Johnson (1901–1970) can be considered a major American artist. He produced hundreds of works in a virtuosic, eclectic career that spanned several decades as well as several continents.