On View
Visual Arts Gallery
Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience.
Created by
Alston, Charles Henry, American, 1907 - 1977
oil paint and gesso on canvas
H x W (framed): 48 1/2 × 64 5/8 × 1 1/4 in. (123.2 × 164.1 × 3.2 cm)
H x W (unframed): 48 × 64 in. (121.9 × 162.6 cm)
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.
Place depicted
Alabama, United States, North and Central America
Visual Arts
Civil Rights Movement
oil paintings
Civil rights
U.S. History, 1953-1961
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Sydney Smith Gordon
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
© Charles Alston Estate
Permission required for use. Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.

Cataloging is an ongoing process and we may update this record as we conduct additional research and review. If you have more information about this object, please contact us at NMAAHCDigiTeam@si.edu

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