Monday, November 12, 2012

Every time I go to the National Portrait Gallery

I am captivated by this bronze bust of Booker T Washington.

Photo taken by me!
For dramatic effect (at least, dramatic for those of us who get more caught up in drama from a century ago than in today's celebrity gossip), the museum places this bust and a portrait of Frederick Douglass on opposite sides of a small wall, spatially articulating their radically divergent viewpoints and envisioned directions. As much as I prefer Douglass's philosophy (though I've learned to at least see where Washington was coming from), I have to say that his portrait is little match for this bust. Sitting on a pedestal that makes him over 6 feet tall, the bust is as imposing as I imagine the man must have been. His eyes are too high to look back at me, and I can't help but feel slighted. Given the sad state of urban and rural public education these days, I am of the firm belief that you could bring Douglass and Washington into the present day and their arguments would change significantly. Bearing that in mind, I can't help but stand firmly rooted there for a number of minutes, measuring myself up to this man, wondering what he might think of me.  

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