Detroit artist Jonathan Harris shares powerful message with critical race theory painting

A painting in Harris' current exhibit at the Irwin House Gallery in Detroit has gone viral

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A painting by an emerging Detroit artist has gone viral for its depiction of critical race theory’s (CRT) erasure of African American history. 

Jonathan Harris’ art depicts a white woman holding a roller paint brush and painting white over a mural depicting portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman with others crucial figures in African American history. 

Photos of the 24 x 36 painting — first shown at a Harris solo exhibition called TRIPTYCH: Stronger Together at the Irwin House Gallery in Detroit — have gone viral.

Many on social media lauded Harris’ work and spoke about the power in the painting’s message. Named “Critical Race Theory,” it and Harris’ other work can be seen on his Instagram page. 

As noted in a previous report from theGrio, critical race theory examines systemic racism in America. CRT was created to combat the white-washing of America’s racist history, which includes omissions from social studies textbooks about the teachings of King, Native Americans and slavery, as well as the cultural significance of Frederick Douglass and how white supremacy has long been the heartbeat of American society. 

“There have already been schools removing race teachings, even as the debate goes on,” Harris recently told The Metro Times. “I believe that removing teachings about this country’s history, and race is a beast that will never be full. If you allow some to be removed, they will want to remove more and more … eventually, even prominent historical figures like Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X might be removed altogether.”

Describing the painting, Harris contends, “The road in the background represents the road that African Americans have had to travel just to get this far, only to have our histories — our stories — potentially erased.”

According to the article, his painting has been acquired by a Detroit art collector, who prefers to remain anonymous at this time. The collector, who is a woman, said the piece is “the perfect example of a picture being worth a thousand words.” 

Harris is hosting a free holiday art showing in his native Detroit this weekend. The event will showcase the work of 30 other Detroit artists in an effort to raise awareness about the arts community in the city. 

This article contains additional reporting from theGrio’s Ny Magee. 

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