Composed of a block of text using different typefaces and a stock drawing of a stereotypical black figure, each lithograph mimics nineteenth-century ads that slave owners posted or placed in publications in their quest to identify and locate their runaway slaves. Each text begins with the phrase “Ran away,” followed by a description of the artist solicited from different friends. For an African American, reading one after another stimulates a journey—a private and curious series of thoughts. Were any of my ancestors the subjects of such ads? How would I have been described if I were a runaway slave, someone’s property, not seen as a full person? From years of experience, I know that each time I encounter Runaways, the work will invariably move from outside of me to inside of me. More and more, I see the work’s title, Runaways, acquiring a layered irony, or expressing an unfortunate, ongoing truth.
Alvin D. Hall, Class of 1974
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