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Unheralded Heroes

23.5 x 32 inches mixed charcoal on paper

Sit-in protests were an integral part of the nonviolent strategy of civil disobedience and mass protests that eventually led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended legally-sanctioned racial segregation in the United States, and also passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which eliminated other racially-motivated barriers to voting rights for non-whites. In sit-in protests, protesters usually seat themselves at a strategic location and remain until they are evicted, usually by force, or arrested, or until their requests have been met. Sit-ins were a successful form of protest because they caused disruption that attracted attention to the protest and by proxy created publicity for the protesters’ cause.

In “Unheralded Heroes,” Washington depicts a traditional “sit-in” protest that would have occurred at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement. Symbolism abounds in this work. Cloudy skies indicate turbulent times, and a cross-shaped telephone pole in the middle of the work is a clear reference to the role of religious faith in the lives of the “unheralded” protesters – everyday, common-folk who sought to use non-violent protest to achieve racial equality. In the foreground, the shadow of a police officer holding a billy club reminds the audience of the constant threat of violence protesters faced while peacefully seeking equal rights.


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