Traveling Presentation 17: Symbols of Struggle
“Ancestors in Conference”
from an oil on canvas
Barbados-born artist Kolongi Brathwaite is widely known for the unique ways in which he distills themes of family, culture and spirituality through the black experience. … The gathering of historical luminaries in his “Ancestors in Conference” are (from left): Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974; Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley; American abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass; politician and statesman Kwame Nkrumah, the father of Ghanaian independence; U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights leader Adam Clayton Powell; African American nationalist Malcom X; Grenadian politician and revolutionary Maurice Bishop; Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba; Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.; Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad; African American nationalist and pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey; and a figure described as “Unknown Solider”.
The central feature of this highly symbolic flag is a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. within a circular border in black representing the continual struggle of African Americans to achieve justice and equality. … The 22 stars represent the 22 times Dr. King went to jail leading demonstrations for Civil Rights; and they refer also to a famous statement by Dr. King that “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” … The stars also represent the many dedicated Civil Rights workers whose faith in the rightness of their cause was unwavering. … The five horizontal stripes represent the colors of the human race for whose freedom Dr. King gave his life. … The green background behind him calls to mind the words from the Biblical Psalm: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He restoreth my soul.”