Native Son

Prints became a popular art form in the 1930s during the Great Depression in the United States. Artists like Smith exploited the expressionist power of such techniques as woodcutting and linoleum cutting, carving deep furrows into the print block to create stark contrasts of black and white. One of several African American printmakers who gathered around the Karamu House in Cleveland, Smith often depicted urban scenes of poverty and struggle. Here, a young African American man leans against a city wall, perhaps in contemplations. In calling him a “native son” of the country, Smith asserts the centrality of African American history and culture of the nation. The term would gain particular popularity two years later with the publication of Richard Wright’s novel Native Son (1940).