Washington uses the black American painter, Henry O. Tanner, as a symbol of the racial equality that can be found in a true meritocracy. Tanner’s work was famous in art circles for its excellence and high quality. To Washington, Tanner’s work erases any sort of racial divide because both black and white art critics could see its value. Tanner himself then symbolizes Washington’s meritocracy, or the idea that all Americans, regardless of race or class, can find success if they work hard enough. Washington believed that merit is the ultimate social standard of value, not race or class as some of his contemporaries suggested, and Henry O. Tanner’s art serves as a symbol of the importance of merit in Washington’s America.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Henry O. Tanner appears in Up From Slavery. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16: Europe
Washington was particularly impressed with the life and work of the black American painter Henry O. Tanner . Washington felt that the painter’s excellence garnered him great success in Europe, and that... (full context)