More than seventy works by African-American artists—drawn exclusively from the collection of the Metropolitan—include prints by Robert Blackburn, Elizabeth Catlett, William H. Johnson, Raymond Steth, and Dox Thrash, among others, as well as paintings and watercolors by Jacob Lawrence, Joseph Delaney, Lois Mailou Jones, Horace Pippin, Romare Bearden, Samuel Joseph Brown, Palmer Hayden, and Bill Traylor. Focusing on the years 1929–45, the selection reflects aspects of daily life for African Americans during the latter part of the Harlem Renaissance, the Depression and New Deal era, and World War II.
New opportunities between 1929 and 1945 under the WPA led to technical innovations in printmaking and a resurgence of artistic production. The installation explores eight central themes: Cultural Identity and Heritage, Faces (portraits), the South, the North, Religion, Labor, Recreation, and War (World War II). Pictures of home, work, and leisure activities convey the artists' dreams, aspirations, and perseverance in the face of economic and social realities, while others explore images related to their ethnic cultural heritage.