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Freedom Has Never Been Free

59 x 23 inches mixed charcoal on paper

In “Freedom Has Never Been Free,” Washington depicts the brutality of the Civil Rights Movement at its climax.  Fire hoses were used on protesters -- whether they were men or women, peaceful or not – as a means to disrupt their dreams of racial equality.  When that was not enough, firefighters turned even more powerful hoses on protesters, hoses that shot streams of water strong enough to break bones and roll the protesters down the street. Sometimes protesters suffered from more than just fire hoses; they were sometimes beaten or even killed.

Washington implicates all of these details into the composition of “Freedom Has Never Been Free.” To the right, protesters stumble and fall as they are drenched with the violent waters shot at them by local firemen.  The firemen, the villains of this work, are adorned with masks that obscure their faces, and substitute their humanity for a ghastly, otherworldly existence. The protesters in the center of the image have bound their arms together, in an attempt to withstand the pulverizing force of the fire hoses -- hoping that their collective strength can withstand the power of the firemen’s tools of oppression.

To the center right is a lone protester holding a sign that reads “EQUALITY,” reminding the viewer that this horrific scene was born out of the desire for African Americans to have the same rights as white Americans.


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