Booker T Washington

I attended the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth a couple of days ago and I was intrigued by this piece of art work. This is called “Ladder for Booker T. Washington.” Martin Puryear created this piece of sculpture out of wood. Ash and Maple to be more specific. There are many ways people can say about what this ladder symbolizes. Puryear’s conclusion to making this ladder is to homage Booker T. Washington’s ambitions and the difficulty of him reaching the top. It is true because Washington’s views were frown upon-ed by other African American peers because of his lack of being politically active when it came to trying to accomplishing the goal of getting equal rights. Booker T. Washington was still respected because of what he stood for which was making the “American Dream” become a reality. An example of what this reminded me was a poem we as a class were assigned to read which was “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes. In his poem Hughes is asking for equality. America is advertised to be such a great country when in reality it has flaws and in order to make it “great” there has to be equal rights to everyone no matter the color of their skin or their religion. Even though now a days equality has improved, racism still exists and even women are not treated as equal as men. No matter how much we climb that ladder it seems impossible to reach the top because of the limitless amount of obstacles that will occur. That is the why I see it and it makes sense because of all of the stories I have read by African American writers such as James Baldwin and Ann Petry. The first moment I looked at this ladder I knew I wanted to use this as example as African American views to equality because everyone saw potential for a goal of equality like Booker T. Washington but reaching the full potential is unreachable which is demonstrated by the really long ladder that seems to go on forever.

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3 comments

  1. This is by far the best art work and the most connection to this class I have seen yet. You could connect this ladder to almost all the work we have learned about in this class, but it is pretty cool they dedicated it to Booker T Washington’s work and ambitions. It is pretty amazing it is actually about a writer we actually studied in the class. I love ladders in art work because like you symbolize an obstacle and the need to constantly improve. In this photo it goes on forever and can never be achieved- because like racial inequality it can always be improved and is constant work.

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  2. I too find the ladder intriguing. I am in agreeance with Puryear and yourself, that the ladder is a symbol of something that appears extremely difficult to attain or reach. However, all ladders and ideas that men and women can think up, are man-made and eventually can come to an end. It really just depends on who is climbing it, who is holding it up, and how determined those people are to reach the top. It takes great drive and dedication to reach the end of an obstacle that seems so far away, much like the racial equality Booker Washington strived for. I believe we are the generation that can conquer all of the never ending ladders presented by the generations before us!
    You mentioned that America is advertised to be something that is not, I wholeheartedly agree that we are mostly smoke and mirrors instead of the intelligent, unified, and strong country we portray. Perhaps America has not even made it half way through the rungs of our own ladder.

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  3. I too chose this same artwork to write about. I noticed it yesterday morning right before I was going to post mine. Great choice! It is an amazing piece of art and I really enjoyed writing about it. I love any kind of wood art so it captured my attention. I like when you said “America is advertised to be such a great country when in reality it has flaws and in order to make it “great” there has to be equal rights to everyone no matter the color of their skin or their religion”. Like this ladder that looks like it never ends, racial discrimination has limitless obstacles to overcome.
    We do see America as the land of free and endless opportunities, but your right, its not great sometimes. We have a lot of work and development to do but hopefully America will be greater each year, step by step.

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