“When I first started at Howard University, I was very frivolous and social-minded. I was in design. I was going to be a commercial artist and make a lot of money. I learned from James Porter the seriousness of being an artist. He taught me that you have to discipline yourself.

Then when I went to the University of Iowa, Grant Wood taught me that you should work with what you know the most about. That’s what he did. He painted Iowa, which is what he knew the most about.

I was working always with the black theme. I did a whole series on black women. Nobody was doing black women. I am a black woman. That’s what I know the most about.

Elizabeth Catlett, Sharecropper

The chairman of the art department at Iowa asked what degree I wanted to apply for. I said, ‘I want a Master of Fine Arts.’ He said, ‘Nobody has ever gotten a Master of Fine Arts, and you can’t be the first one. So I would suggest you apply for the Master of Arts.’ And I said, ‘Why can’t I be the first on?’ He said, ‘Because you’re a woman,’ and he didn’t add the other part, but I could see he was thinking it.

After the oral examination, they asked me to wait outside. I could hear voices raised. Finally they opened the door and congratulated me because I was going to get the Master of Fine Arts degree. The other students were very happy for me and they said, ‘Now you’ve opened it up.’

Dr. William DuBois once told me, ‘Never take a step backward or you never stop running.’ I never forgot it”

Elizabeth Catlett, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America

Elizabeth Catlett, a distinguished sculptor and lithographer. Among her major commissions are a life-sized bronze bust of poet Phillis Wheatley for Jackson State University, a ten-foot bronze of Louis Armstrong for the city of New Orleans and a twenty-four-foot bronze relief for Howard University.

Never Stop Running

Never stop running sister,

the destination

you do not run for not

there is

justice

equality

love

opportunity

LIFE

Keep pressing for it,

like you know it belongs to you

Never stop running

don’t stop

run hard,

with truth, determination and power in each step

cry your tears

slow your pace when you need to

turn on some tunes and let the song

beats, rhythms and words move you on

even laugh if you must

don’t stop

never stop running

you will get there

we will get there

never stop running

lar

 

Piece by Elizabeth Catlett

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