Monument to the Minds of the Little Negro Steelworkers

Thornton Dial2001 - 2003

Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Atlanta, United States

In his explorations of the city and the newly industrialized world, Dial refers frequently to the role of labor, and particularly the contributions of black workers, in building the nation.

“My art is talking about power. It is talking about coal mines and the steel mills. It is talking about the government, and the unions, and the peoples that control the hills and mountains. The Power of the United states is the fuel that . . . carries everything, the mills and factories, the stores and houses. I try to show how the Negroes have worked all these different places and have come to help make the power of the United States what it is today.”

Dial also points out that, despite their contributions to the growth of the nation, black workers have not generally been the recipients of its rewards and opportunities. In "Monument to the Minds of the Little Negro Steelworkers," he fashioned a memorial to the vast corps of black manual laborers who were never able to develop and realize their true abilities. The piece, a shrine to lost talent and creativity, is composed of fanciful metal scrollwork and festooned with all the power icons of the African American graveyard—bottles, cloth rags, bones, funerary flowers, and an axe blade. Dial once said, “If we going to change the world, we need to look at the little man. All them little folks out there—black peoples, poor white peoples—all got big minds. We got to use them minds."


  • Title: Monument to the Minds of the Little Negro Steelworkers
  • Creator: Thornton Dial
  • Creator Lifespan: 1928/2016
  • Creator Nationality: American
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: McCalla, Alabama
  • Creator Birth Place: Emelle, Alabama
  • Date Created: 2001 - 2003
  • Physical Location: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
  • Location Created: McCalla, Alabama
  • Physical Dimensions: 76 x 138 x 46 in. (193 x 350.5 x 116.8 cm)
  • Subject Keywords: African American art, Black art
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: © Thornton Dial / Photo: Stephen Pitkin, Pitkin Studio
  • External Link: https://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/artist/thornton-dial
  • Medium: Steel, wood, wire, twine, artificial flowers, ax blade, glass bottles, animal bones, cloth, tin cans, paint can lids, and enamel

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