In spring 1936, as part of the “healing process of the nation” during the aftermath of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. Although African Americans took part in the exhibition, their designated section of the fair was in the Hall of Negro Life; a separate building isolated from the main path by a row of cedar trees and shrubs.
One of the murals on show was Aaron Douglas’s Into Bondage. Douglas’ murals gave African Americans a new identity at the Exposition by drawing on a usable antislavery past to develop an alternative narrative of black history: no longer passive enslaved supplicants, African Americans are empowered liberators. Douglas layered the mural with a guide for potential resistance.