The Roots of Slavery and Mass Incarceration (Project 1) (Jordan Smith)

Jordan Smith

Image 1 (left), image 2 (right), image 3 (top)

Achebe and the “right of Africans to tell their own story in their own way” inspired me to reconsider themes of the past and how they are still present in twenty-first century.

Image 1 Close-up

For this project, I created a series of drawings, each representative of the “root” somewhere of slavery. In the first image to the left, I created a drawing of a hand being ensnared by a rope, representative of the bindings of slavery. The fingers are depicted as bleeding from picking the cotton, which is tied into the rope. As seen in this image, the rope spirals down to somewhere off the page. I depicted the binding of the rope as being a part of the “root” connecting all three of my images.

Image 2 Close-up

For the second image, I incorporated the handcuffs and the breaking of the chains binding them together. I also included more cotton, which I think is important and symbolic to the interconnectedness of slavery and how it still exists today in more of a modern form. In this image reflective of the mass incarceration in America, and how it is a modern form of slavery, I detailed a cotton plant rooting down to the bottom left corner of the page. The root of the cotton plant also symbolizing the roots of mass incarceration that targets African Americans.

Image 1 and 2 side by side
Image one, two, and three

For my last and final image, I detailed a series of roots, coming from two separate ends of the page. One end is supposed to be the rope which represents slavery, and the other end is supposed to be the root of the cotton plant from the chains of mass incarceration in present day. The roots of the third page spirals down and intertwines together, creating one giant tie, rooting deep into the ground as one.

For this project, I wanted to create something that showed the severity of mass incarceration and offer a depiction that compared the chains of imprisonment in modern day to the “chains” or bindings of slavery we often consider a thing of the past.

Something I would do differently is I used Adobe scan to upload these onto my computer, so several of the frames are lighter in picture than in person. If I were to have done this project again with more time, I would have gone with a darker shade for the hand in image one so that the color would show up better on camera. I used dark tones in all my images, browns and on occasion a pale blue which I thought was representative of the “police force” and modern-day law enforcement. The hand in the first picture has tones of blue surrounding it, and so does the cotton that is budding along the outside of the rope. Again, if I were to do this project again completely from scratch, I would fix the tones, so it was darker.

The hand, although upon closer inspection is dark, what worries me is that it will get lost as “just another hand” or a European hand and not a hand representative of the African Americans ensnared by the bindings of slavery. I deeply regret this mistake and hope it does not compromise the meaning of my project. I know this may be overly critical of my work, so I will just hope that I am simply overthinking and that this meaning does not get lost.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this project despite it being a test of my planning skills. I spent a lot of time considering the roots of all things, racism, slavery, incarceration systems in America. And it made me think about what else is buried underneath the surface; what else is connected?

There are roots at everything that existed before us. And from them, we grow. But I want to know what I’m growing from. And I want to know which roots are still buried deep beneath us, supporting the legs of the structure we stand on.

One thought on “The Roots of Slavery and Mass Incarceration (Project 1) (Jordan Smith)

  1. Powerful images, very artistic and hold deep meaning. I like how you connected deeper roots of slavery to mass incarceration. Awesome job I love the creativity.

Leave a Reply