Into Bondage

Aaron Douglas

(American; b. Topeka, Kans., 1899–d. Nashville, Tenn., 1979)

Title: 

Into Bondage

Date: 

1936

Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Size: 

60 3/8 x 60 1/2 in. (153.4 x 153.7 cm)

Original dimensions may have been closer to 60 inches (see Treatment History below.)

Museum Purchase and partial gift from Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., The Evans–Tibbs Collection

Accession Number: 

1996.9

Into Bondage is a poignant depiction of the forced removal of Africans to America. Douglas rendered the scene in a stylized manner that incorporates elements of Cubism and African motifs. Shackled figures with their heads hung low process solemnly toward slave ships on the horizon. At left, a lone woman raises her manacled hands in a gesture of despair. Yet even in this solemn image of enslavement there is hope. The male figure in the center of the composition stands nobly on the slave block, buoyed by a beam of light emanating from a rose-colored celestial body that suggests the North Star. This painting is one of two that survive from a series of four murals Douglas executed for the Hall of Negro Life at the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas in 1936. The Exposition opened on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the end of slavery.