My right is a future of equality with other Americans by Elizabeth Catlett
Elizabeth Catlett was an African-American artist whose sculpture focused primarily on the experiences of African-American and Mexican women. Through printmaking and sculpture, her work synthesized aspects of realism and modernist abstraction, narrative, and political activism. The print “My right is a future of equality with other Americans” is the culminating image of Catlett’s series The Negro Woman, which she made at the Taller de Gráfica Popular, a print shop in Mexico City known for popular and Revolutionary imagery, as well as a collective approach to printmaking. There are fifteen prints in the cycle, and each title links to form a continuous narrative:
I am the Negro woman. I have always worked hard in America…In the fields…In other folks’ homes…I have given the world my songs. In Sojourner Truth I fought for the rights of women as well as the Negroes. In Harriet Tubman I helped hundreds to freedom. In Phillis Wheatley I proved intellectual equality in the midst of slavery. My role has been important to the struggle to organize the unorganized. I have studied in ever increasing numbers. My reward has been bars between me and the rest of the land. I have special reservations…Special houses….And a special fear for my loved ones. My right is a future of equality with other Americans.
Through the series Catlett sought to depict a history of African-American women, encompassing both their triumphs and the brutal realities of slavery and the Jim Crow era. Many of the prints show women engaged in activities illustrating the titles. In contrast, the statement “My right is a future of equality with other Americans” is represented by a close-cropped, powerfully modeled woman’s head. With an energetic sense of line and patterning, Catlett’s monumental figure gazes upward in a pose of hope, strength, and achievement. – Kiki Gilderhus
Elizabeth Catlett. Works on Paper, 1944-1992. Ed. Jeanne Ziedler. Hampton, VA: Hampton University Museum, 1993.
Herzog, Melanie. Elizabeth Catlett: An American Artist in Mexico. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2000.
Lewis, Samella. The Art of Elizabeth Catlett. Claremont, CA: Hancraft Studios, 1984.