Edwin Rosskam: Young people outside of Negro high school, Black Belt, Chicago, Illinois, 1941

World War II happened in 1941. The March on Washington Movement  was the most militant and important force in African American politics in the early 1940s, formed in order to protest segregation in the armed forces.

It must be a summer, their hands hold frozen popsicles. When I see this photo, I feel those girls may also be involved in this movement. They want to go to school, but they have little money. It is really a bad situation for them. They are waiting at the gate of a school.


This is a scene of Chinese parents waiting for their children who complete high school exams at the gate of the school. Even when students have the final exam at high schools, it is worth worrying for their parents. There is a saying in China, “Parents want their sons to be dragons (heros), and they also want their daughters to be phoenix (very successful).”

The reason why I choose those two photos to compare with each other is that they are both at the gate of school. From different perspectives, different angles, the first picture shows us these girls are outside of the gate, while the second picture shows those parents are standing in front of the school door. The second photo is just horizantal.


Edwin Rosskam: Street scene, Provincetown, Massachusetts, 1937

A woman seated on a bicycle turns her head to look back. I am little confused about this season, whether it is autumn or summer. Looking at the woman in the middle, she wears a dress, while a woman behind her wears an overcoat. The woman who is seated on the bicycle stares back while others also look in this direction. It seems like that something important happens , so it attracts many passers-by.

In 1937, African Americans did not have many rights they enjoy today. The scene we cannot see which appears in those passerbys’ eyes may be some African American facing some unfair thing.

The woman’s bicycle is in a very old style.


This picture which I painted shows people a scene of a family riding on bikes very happily. The background is fresh green, which shows me their energy. Besides, they have different color bikes: blue, red, and black. When they go out together, they wear helmets and ride bikes. I feel they enjoy their time. It is a good time for them to relax. They crack a smile. I feel very comfortable when I look at this photo.

Compared to the first photo, taken by Rosskam, with this modern photo, many things have changed, including their dress, style of bike, their mood, and so on.

Boys playing that they are shooting machine guns at a passing aeroplane.

It is a very interesting scene. According to the period, in 1941,  World War II was happening. Many African Americans served in the war. Even children wanted to participate in this war. They may just want to play. I see their smiling faces.


In this painting, children are taught to shoot. Their poses are the same which is so cool to me. In the modern time, the people’s life standard is improved. Looking at their guns, they are so nice.

Even though those two pictures are both about children shooting, they reflect different societies.

There are five boys seated on a car. They all want to be looked very cool, so they pose like this way. In 1941, African American is not a cool name.  They are poor. They are looked down on by many other people. Those boys dress as clean as they can, and sit on the top of the car. I even know the boy who wears a hat, which also appaers in Edwin Rosskam’s work. 


For the modern tiem, there are many car models who are always very sexy to attract many people to buy cars. She uses her body language to attract many men to look at her, and make them want to buy this car.


Provincetown Player 1940

In 1940, people like to sit together to listen to someone playing classical guitar.

A popular guy plays guitar surrounded by a crowd. He is playing classical guitar. Edwin Rosskam took directly at a horizantal angle so the player looks very welcoming to people. Their clothing is informal, just T-shirts. Looking at the players hat, it is slightly askew. But the player pays attention to playing the guitar.  


This illustration of a girl, I use the software painter IX , who plays the guitar is created in Japanese cartoon. As time passed by, people’s dressing is different, both styles and materials. For the first picture, the man just wears a T-shirt to paly the guitar, while the girl in the second picture wears the clothing just for her performance. There is also a difference angle between two photos. For the first one, it is a horizantal, but in the second picture, it is an upper angle, which make this girl taller and bigger. Maybe audience really like her and want to worship her.

Laptop Recharge 1941, by Edwin Rosskam

An African American mother is nursing her baby with a bottle. With the distance between her and photographer, we have these figures and big buildings in the background occupying much space.

I feel sad and lonely when I see this photo. There is only the woman and her baby.

This African American woman is not strong enough to nurse her child, and she even looks very skinny. It also reflects how the African Americans’ standard of living was not good at that time.


 This sketch shows a plump mother nursing her baby directly.

According to the clothes and jewellery she wears, I can know she is in a very rich European family. Even her baby is very fat. Looking at the baby’s leg, it is so fat.

Compared to the first photo by Edwin Rosskam, this sketch focuses on the mother and her baby. The artist ignores the background. When I see the first photo, it has a very large  background space. the figure looks very small. I also feel helpless.

Chicago, Illinois, 1941 by Edwin Rosskam.

                    This photo is about children playing jump rope together. I think they are poor so that they share only one jump rope to play.


                    I chose Chinese children playing the jump rope individually and painted it. It must be very old subject, because we can know by their clothes and hair styles.

                    Even though those two pictures are all about children playing the jump rope, the distances and  dates of photograph and painting are very far away.

Children watching a mock wedding parade on N Street SW, Washington, DC, 1942

According to the scene in the photo, I think there must be some famous person passing through the street, so there are many people standing on both sides of the road.

Behind four children who stand in the front of the photo is a puddle full of water, which reflects the shadow of those four children.


In the second painting, these students are looking at the back of their leaving teacher. After learning together three years, they like and cherish each other. At the day of graduating from high school, they get together again to send off their lovely teacher.

Even though this teacher is not as famous as a super star, he teaches those children by using his whole energy and sensation.

Compare first photo by Edwin Rosskam to below photo, I find there are some interesting things in common. Their backs all face us, which seems like a secret that I want to ask why they do not  just face us so we can know their faces.

Edwin Rosskam: Negro family, Chicago, Illinois, 1941

There is a photo of a traditional African American family.

a Second Great Migration (1940 to 1970), in which 5 million or more people moved, including many to California and various western cities. This photo was taken in 1941, so maybe this family also moved.

In some ways enslaved African American families very much resembled other families who lived in other times and places and under vastly different circumstances. Some husbands and wives loved each other; some did not get along. Children sometimes abided by parent’s rules; other times they followed their own minds. Most parents loved their children and wanted to protect them. In some critical ways, though, the slavery that marked everything about their lives made these families very different.


Family, in my opinion, is someone who loves you and whom you love too. I think that the family in this point of view is one of the most important things in our life, and people who have no family are always lonely and moreover nobody takes care of them.

This is an oil painting about a happy family with two cute dogs.

According to this photo, I can knew there are many children in one classroom. This classroom is not big enough for so many children, becuase children have already sit near the door. There is not enough space. Through this, I also can imagine how crude their classroom is. There is a bookshelf in front of the blackboard. Every student in the classroom only has a small piece of paper  and a short pencil on the table. Even their condition is not good, they want to learn more and know how to read a book.  –Haizhen Yuan


It is one of my painting. I have little time so there is not much detail. There are only 10 children in one classroom. They are drawing while they wear clean pinafore to keep their clothes from messing of the painting. They are very happy while they are painting. Everyone has their own materials. It reflects now society is developing. –Haizhen Yuan