"Aspiration," created for the Texas Centennial of 1936, conveys the artist’s perception of a link between African/Egyptian and African American cultures—rejecting European claims to Egypt’s historical legacy. Aaron Douglas’s painting depicts multiple progressions—from slavery to freedom, and from the agrarian or sharecropper labor of the South to the industrial labor of the North—along with the triumph of freedom over racism and subjugation. The shackled arms rising from wave-like curves evoke the transatlantic passage of slave ships.The five-pointed stars symbolize Texas—the Lone Star State—but also recall the North Star that guided fugitives from slavery to freedom before the Civil War. The seated figure of Egypt holding a book and the silhouettes of pyramids represent the cultural contributions of ancient African/Egyptian civilization. The two twentieth-century African American men hold attributes of education and gaze upward to a city whose futuristic skyscrapers symbolize human aspiration.
- Aaron Douglas (1899-1979)
- Object Type
- Oil on canvas
- 60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm); Frame: 70 5/16 x 70 5/16 x 2 3/4 in. (178.6 x 178.6 x 7 cm)
- Credit Line
- Museum purchase, the estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs Jr., the Museum Society Auxiliary, American Art Trust Fund, Unrestricted Art Trust Fund, partial gift of Dr. Ernest A. Bates, Sharon Bell, Jo-Ann Beverly, Barbara Carleton, Dr. And Mrs. Arthur H. Coleman, Dr. and Mrs. Coyness Ennix, Jr., Nicole Y. Ennix, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Francois, Dennis L. Franklin, Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell C. Gillette, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Goodyear, Zuretti L. Goosby, Marion E. Greene, Mrs. Vivian S. W. Hambrick, Laurie Gibbs Harris, Arlene Hollis, Louis A. and Letha Jeanpierre, Daniel and Jackie Johnson, Jr., Stephen L. Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lathan, Lewis & Ribbs Mortuary Garden Chapel, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Love, Glenn R. Nance, Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Parker III, Mr. and Mrs. Carr T. Preston, Fannie Preston, Pamela R. Ransom, Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin F. Reed, San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Chapter of Links, Inc., San Francisco Chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Dr. Ella Mae Simmons, Mr. Calvin R. Swinson, Joseph B. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred S. Wilsey, and the people of the San Francisco Bay Area
- Accession Number