Art for Justice

Explores the use of graphic art in the 1930s by the Communist Party USA and other groups and individuals in condemning white supremacy and demanding justice for the Scottsboro Boys

In March 1931, nine Black youths riding the rails in search of work were arrested when the freight train stopped in Scottsboro, Alabama. Falsely accused of rape, the boys were convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death.

Eager to recruit Black activists, the Communist Party took on their legal defense, organizing mass demonstrations and securing a retrial and the release of four of the accused.

Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts uses images to narrate the Scottsboro case, placing it in a longer arc of history. Beginning with the kidnapping, transportation, and selling of Africans into slavery, it ends with the Communist Party leading workers of all races in a revolution against capitalist exploitation. The artists, Lin Shi Khan and Ralph Austin, prepared this manuscript as a mock-up for a linocut block book that went unpublished at the time.

Plate, “And so a new and thriving industry was born, slave trading. Thrown and piled on ships like cattle, the Negro slaves were transplanted to the new land,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
,
Plate, “No work in the country especially for negros—give a white man work first,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, 1933, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
,
Plate, “So off to the city to look for work go [1000s of] youth,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
,
Plate, “If the girls say the Negros raped them the Law will let them go free, even buy them a new dress,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, 1933, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
,
Plate, “Haywood Patterson facing lyncher in the court room courageously took his stand,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
,
Plate, “8 face the electric chair,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Show lessRead more
Plate, “The Internationale,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
,
Plate, “American justice,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
,
Plate, “For Freedom and justice the workers must rise,” from Scottsboro: A Story in Linoleum Cuts, Lin Shi Khan, Ralph Austin, From the collection of: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
Show lessRead more

Portfolio plate, “Stake in the Commonwealth,” from Comrade Gulliver: An Illustrated Account of Travel into that Strange Country, the United States of America (1936) by Hugo GellertThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

An ardent Communist activist, Hugo Gellert created this bitterly ironic lithographic illustration. Echoing the crucifixion, the title implies that being burned at the stake in a lynching was the only “stake” Black people could expect under the American capitalist system.

Angelo Herndon, a Black Communist Party activist, was arrested and charged in 1932 for possessing subversive literature under an old insurrection law in Georgia. Sentenced to 18 to 20 years of hard labor on the chain gang, his comrades successfully appealed and overturned his conviction in the Supreme Court in 1937, whereupon he turned his attention to the plight of the Scottsboro Boys.

The Scottsboro Boys: Four Freed! Five to go!The Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Pamphlet, They Shall not Die! Stop the Legal Lynching! -The Story of Scottboro in Pictures (June 1932) by Anton RefregierThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Before he won acclaim painting murals for the Works Progress Administration and Federal Art Project, the Russian immigrant Anton Refregier also contributed cartoons in support of the Scottsboro Boys.

A close friend of African American poet Langston Hughes and associated with the Harlem Renaissance, Prentiss Taylor studied lithography and printmaking in New York City’s Art Students League in 1931. The cause of the Scottsboro Boys caught his interest, and he created this print as a show of solidarity.

Scottsboro Limited (1932) by Prentiss TaylorThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Communist sympathizer John Wexley was a prolific playwright in the 1930s and 1940s. He dramatized the Scottsboro trials in a play first performed at the Royale Theatre on Broadway in March 1934. The theatre critic for the NAACP’s The Crisis panned the work as “propaganda for the Communist Party transferred to the stage.”

They Shall Not Die: a Play by Prentiss TaylorThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Stop Lynching. Shame of America (1939) by Rebel Arts Groups and Union Poster ServiceThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

The New York-based Rebel Arts Group was founded in 1934 by students and members of the American Socialist Party and other leftist groups. Famous for theatrical and musical performances, they also produced politically charged murals, publications, and banners.

The Scottsboro Nine
Olen Montgomery, exonerated and released 1937
Clarence Norris, released on parole 1946, exonerated 1976
Haywood Patterson, escaped prison 1948, posthumously pardoned 2013
Ozie Powell, exonerated 1937, released 1946
Willie Roberson, exonerated and released 1937
Charles Weems, released on parole 1943, posthumously pardoned 2013
Eugene Williams, exonerated and released 1937
Andrew Wright, released on parole 1950, posthumously pardoned 2013
Leroy Wright, exonerated and released 1937

Credits: Story

The Wolfsonian receives ongoing support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; and the City of Miami Beach, Cultural Affairs Program, Cultural Arts Council.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps