Douglas helped visually define the Harlem Renaissance through his work as a painter and illustrator. Created a year after the artist moved to Harlem, this drawing exemplifies Douglas’s signature style. The work ripples with bands of graded grays, and a shaft of light illuminates the powerful, silhouetted figure who grasps the chains of bondage. Missing are wrist and ankle shackles, suggesting that this man is not enslaved but rather shaping his own fate. This drawing may be related to the artist’s illustrations for James Weldon Johnson’s 1927 book God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse.
Gallery label from 2020