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The Price of Progress

22 x 36,25 inches mixed charcoal on paper

At times, history and destiny intersect to create a crossroads in man’s continual struggle for freedom and equality.

Citizenship and equality are broader concepts than civil rights alone. The Civil Rights Movement was not solely about ending segregation, but also about allowing Americans to enjoy the fruits of being equal citizens in all aspects of life, both public and private.

For the individuals of the Civil Rights Movement – courageous individuals who had been historically deprived of their constitutional rights and dignity as human beings on the basis of race – the right to equality and human dignity was not free. It came with a steep price.

In the most difficult circumstances, these heroes of the Civil Rights Movement – common people with little resources – revolutionized the United States by narrowing the gap between its revolutionary ideals, its laws and their practical application.  They exhibited resolute composure, grace under pressure and non-reactivity in the face of anger, violence and hatred.

In “The Price of Progress,” Washington demonstrates the continual threat of violence faced by peaceful civil rights activists seeking racial equality. Southern authorities engaged in heavy-handed tactics in dealing with peaceful protesters, despite the fact that the protesters posed no threat of violence. Police used fire hoses and police attack dogs against mobs of peaceful demonstrators. Protesters were arrested for vagrancy, which did not allow a prisoner bail or visitors during the first three days of incarceration.

Violent acts by the authorities became so common, that civil rights protesters came to expect violent treatment from the police and other authorities. Nevertheless, the activists demonstrated anyway, willing to risk the consequences for their cause.

In “The Price of Progress,” Washington depicts a peaceful group of African Americans protesting for equal rights. To the left, the protesters are approached by a group of southern police, positioned for an impending physical attack. The protesters stand purposeful and unyielding, cognizant of the “price” they may be called to pay for the sake of social progress and equality for all races.


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