Joe Jones's American Justice

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The artistic work was done by Joe Jones in 1933 and it is displayed at Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. The image is an oil on canvas, 30 by 36 inches.

Describe the Scene and Elements

American Justice painting is also known as White Justice. Graphically, the image portrays a black woman who has been lynched and raped by a mob of Klansmen (Wishart 122).  Besides the sexual victimization of the African American woman, the Ku Klux Klan also killed her (Apel 142). A house, presumably hers, burns at the background of the scene while eight Klansmen stand behind the burning house chatting. The woman is half naked, portraying a strong sense of sexual violation. The phallic torch of the Klansmen is positioned suggestively at the right edge of the group and it points towards the oval of the noose hanging at the center of the composition giving more incites on raping and lynching incidence (Apel 143).

How it reflects the situation of the time, how does it shock the beholder, purpose of the image

According to Meyerowitz, the painting consists of a moment of history that individuals in society want to cover. Importantly, the social realism makes individuals cognizant of our history. The image shows how art can provide a powerful instrument to communicate a subject. Joe Jones used it to oppose communists’ movements. He had participated in several strikes and thus, such revolutionary measures were not new to him. Even though government and institutions have taken racism factors seriously and put measures to reduce cases, there are still a number of incidences reported. The image thus applies to racist individuals in society and may help in communicating the need to end racism.

The painting represents a form of racial violence where the Jones protested against the Klan’s activities (Steiner 85). Importantly, audiences that look at the painting are provoked to think twice about the situation and thus sensationalism comes out. Even though the Klan’s wanted to mark a line between whites and other races, they acted inhumanly towards the African Americans.

The image makes audiences see that it is just not a war between communists and capitalist, but also a fight against evil (Steiner 322). By the time Joe Jones did the painting, there was so much violence and psychological terror based on race. The image symbolically portrayed the evil in the society and thus evoke a need to do away with vices that result from racial differences.

The historical background, the specific use of colors, the meaning

the painting is based on Missouri and the activities of the Klan. Joe Jones drew the painting while teaching a class for unemployed white and African Americans in St Louise. St. Louis also acted as a courthouse where slaves were auctioned. Additionally, it happened when the Dred Scott decision had been handed down in 1857 (cmaohio). His piece of art was greatly influenced by the left-wing artists at Provincetown and thus developed a great interest in communist politics. It happened at a time when the United States was scared of racial tension where the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery (cmaohio). Unfortunately, outlawing slavery did not end racial discrimination. The Ku Klux Klan were fighting for supremacy of the whites. Joe Jones painted the woman black to show the existence of racial discrimination and condemn it highly. The lynching shows that it did not only happen in the South but in Missouri as well. Lynching shows that the African Americans struggled to get their rights (Wishart 123).

Works Cited

Apel, Dora. “Imagery of lynching: Black men, white women, and the mob.” Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Meyerowitz, Robert. “Working Class Artist is Something to Be.” St. Louise web. 2010

"Race & Ethnicity_Art & Social Issues In American Culture." N.p., 2018. Web. 10 Feb. 2018.

Steiner, Michael C., ed. Regionalists on the Left: Radical Voices from the American West. University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.

Wishart, David J., ed. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. U of Nebraska Press, 2004.

August 01, 2023


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Artwork Painting

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