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Walking recalls the bus boycotts in the 1950s and anticipated the civil rights marches of the 1960s. The work not only depicts the spirit and conviction of the civil rights protests, it also references the significant role of women and youth in the movement.
This colorful, modernist painting depicts women and a young girl walking in front of a long line of others. The figures move out of a shadowy background on the left, towards the light, emanating from the upper right corner. The line appears to be moving forwards, out of the picture plane. The women leading the line step forward strongly to the viewer's right; their leg movements are delineated by the columns of strongly contrasting light and shadow of their long skirts. The leading woman's face is upturned towards the light. Next to and slightly behind her a second female figure, with forward facing gaze, has her right arm around a much smaller female figure. This child figure moves with the line but turns her head to face the viewer, hands folded at the waist. Directly behind them is another female figure carrying a swathed infant. There are several isolated individuals outside the orderly grouping of the line. The line is the focus of their gaze; the nearest individual turns her back on the viewer as she focuses on the line.
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National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Visual Arts
Visual Art and the American Experience
On View
NMAAHC (1400 Constitution Ave NW), National Mall Location, Culture/Fourth Floor, 4 052
Object number
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Sydney Smith Gordon
Created by
Charles Henry Alston, American, 1907 - 1977
African American
Civil Rights
United States--History--1953-1961
Place depicted
Alabama, United States, North and Central America
oil paint and gesso on canvas
H x W: 48 3/8 x 64 3/4 x 1 1/4 in. (122.9 x 164.5 x 3.2 cm)
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Restrictions & Rights
© Charles Alston Estate
oil paintings