Four Hundred Years of Free Labor

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Welded found metal
105 x 58 x 54 inches
Collection of
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

"We as people of Africa have a story to tell about a journey of four hundred years here in America. Kidnapped from the motherland of Africa, placed in chains and shackles, uprooted from family into slavery.

"Back in 1979 the company I was working for closed down, and I started wandering around. I had a lot of little jobs here and there, but nothing to stay with, and I knew I had to regroup, find a way to go on with my life. I looked around me and saw so much trouble in the world, so much suffering among my people. I was living in a place that looks upon Africans as less than a human being. My African ancestors built America on the sweat of their backs, in their blood, in their life—free slave labor—and the only pay is death. I saw how the races was drifting further and further apart and how black people ourselves was drifting apart. And I asked God to help me find a way that I could help bring people together as one, for understanding, even for the littlest child. Because America had started to lose the family, and when the family is lost, that is the end of all of us here as a people." —Joe Minter