Platemark: 21.7 x 21.7 cm (8 9/16 x 8 9/16 in.); Sheet: 40.7 x 30.4 cm (16 x 11 15/16 in.)
Severance and Greta Millikin Trust 2022.55
Edition: Edition of 50
This print was included in a 1942 exhibition of Karamu House artists organized at New York’s Associated American Artists Galleries and sponsored by a committee including cultural figures such as Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, and Carl Van Vechten. The show traveled to Philadelphia’s Temple University and brought national attention to the Karamu House printmaking workshop.
This linocut was created by William E. Smith while he was involved in the printmaking workshop at Karamu House, a community art center founded in 1915 that is still active in Cleveland today. Created by carving into a smooth linoleum block, linocut is an accessible technique that was favored at Karamu for its accessibility and democracy. Smith used it to evocatively depict the lives of Black Clevelanders—here, referencing the opening lines of the 1921 poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, who himself took art classes at Karamu House.
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