Martin Puryear's "Ladder for Booker T. Washington"

I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed."

—Booker T. Washington

Students examine Martin Puryear’s Ladder for Booker T. Washington and consider how the title of Puryear’s sculpture is reflected in the meanings we can draw from it. Students learn about Booker T. Washington’s life and legacy. They also gain understanding of how a ladder can be a metaphor for a person’s and a group’s progress toward goals.

Guiding Questions

How are the philosophy and legacy of Booker T. Washington reflected in the features of Martin Puryear’s artwork, "Ladder for Booker T. Washington?"

Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson students will be able to: perceive and describe artistic qualities, craftsmanship, and connotations of 20th century African American artist Martin Puryear’s "Ladder for Booker T. Washington."

Explain Booker T. Washington’s promotion of African American self-advancement through education, the virtues of hard work, and service to the community.

Discuss how Puryear’s ladder elicits connotations of aspiration, growth, and achievement as envisioned by Booker T. Washington for all African Americans.

Consider how other groups have struggled, climbed, and risen.