Tribute to YMCA

Object Details

James Amos Porter
c. 1934
oil on canvas
Frame: 69 7/8 × 58 1/4 × 2 15/16 in. (177.5 × 148 × 7.5 cm)
Artist James A. Porter presented this painting to the Twelfth Street branch of the Washington, DC YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in 1934 to symbolize the organization’s dedication to community service. In the foreground, two Black men sit together at a table with a silver trophy. Behind them, a bookshelf is adorned with an upside-down triangle, symbolizing the YMCA and its emphasis on strengthening the mind, body, and spirit. These details suggest that one of the seated men may be Jesse Edward Moorland, who was an executive at the YMCA, served on the Board of Trustees at Howard University, and donated his personal library to the University. The painter likely would have been familiar with Moorland from his connection to Howard University, where Porter had been an undergraduate student, and later, a professor and chair of the art department.
Above, a group of men with a variety of skin tones representing different archetypes—including “thinker” and “athlete”—surround a classical monument with “YMCA” carved into the pediment. The organization became desegregated in 1946, more than a decade after Porter made the painting.
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