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Activity: Paths from Enslavement

Aaron Douglas, Into Bondage, 1936

Aaron Douglas, Into Bondage, 1936, oil on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase and partial gift from Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., The Evans-Tibbs Collection), 2014.79.17

Observation and Discussion

  1. Have students individually spend some time looking closely at this painting, writing down 10 words or phrases to describe what they see. After they’ve made their lists, have students pair up and compare. What were the similarities and differences in what you noticed?
  2. In pairs, students should work together to generate a list of questions they have about the painting’s artist, subject matter, method, historical context, etc. Discuss the questions generated as a class and select a few for further investigation. Assign small groups to research one of the questions and report back to the class.
  3. Ask students to reflect individually: Have you, or your family, ever left home for a new location or community? What was the process like? How did you and your family adjust to the new community and life?


This painting was installed in the Hall of Negro Life at the Texas Centennial Exposition. The Hall of Negro Life opened at the exposition on June 19, 1936, in recognition of Juneteenth—a holiday first celebrated in 1866 by freed communities in Texas, marking the end of slavery.

  1. Direct students to search the LOC-NEH Chronicling America database of American newspapers for mentions of the Juneteenth holiday around the time of the creation of Douglas’s painting. What information can they find, and what does this information tell us about the status of the holiday in the early 20th century?
    2. Ask students to select one or two national or local newspapers for research on recent reporting related to Juneteenth. What is the coverage like, and how far back in time can they find articles covering the topic of Juneteenth?

Discuss as a class: What recent events or shifts in attitudes might have contributed to increased coverage on Juneteenth, now a federal holiday?


  • Have students read the text of Langston Hughes’s "Afro-American Fragment" poem (below), and then select someone to read it aloud to the class. What themes or messages does Hughes communicate in his poem? If you could choose one or two lines from the poem to pair with this painting, which would you choose, and why?
So long,
So far away
Is Africa.
Not even memories alive
Save those that history books create,
Save those that songs
Beat back into the blood—
Beat out of blood with words sad-sung
In strange un-Negro tongue—
So long,
So far away
Is Africa.
Subdued and time-lost
Are the drums—and yet
Through some vast mist of race
There comes this song
I do not understand,
This song of atavistic land,
Of bitter yearnings lost
Without a place—
So long,
So far away
Is Africa's
Dark face.
© 1951 by the Langston Hughes Estate
  • How does this painting compare to Voyager? Consider the historical context of each painting’s creation, in the early 20th century (Douglas) vs. the late 20th century (Marshall). What feelings does each painting evoke? Which do you find more powerful, and why?


BlackPast: History of Juneteenth
Texas State Historical Association: Juneteenth