Catlett has been a Du Boisian figure in the visual arts,
engaging in the African American liberation struggle, not
for her own gain, but to assure that all Black Americans,
people of color, are accorded the same freedom and rights
accorded to white Americans.
Catlett's genius has been her ability to reveal an embodiment of the Black liberation struggle, its narrative and sub-texts through visual and plastic means. The profiles of the sculptures suggest that Catlett was able to envision a particular moment in the life and history of the event or person. Her ability to make form carry a message is the seat of her genius, for she is able to present images that reflect her uncompromising stance against injustice, oppression. Her sculptures, like Du Bois's self-described "hammer blows" against the treatment of Black Americans, have marked a particular point in the history of Black Americans. For over forty years, Catlett has used her technical brilliance, envisioning powers, and unswerving commitment to justice to advance the liberation of Black people.
Catlett, like Du Bois, has been uncompromising in her words and in her art. Just as David Levering Lewis has recorded with respect to the importance of DuBois,9 one could not look at Catlett's work and call it inferior. The clarity of form, expressive qualities, rhythms of axes, and impeccable surfaces reflect a talent of great importance and significance.
The work of Elizabeth Catlett reveals a consciousness and imagination that inspired and greatly influenced artists of the African American diaspora of the 1960s.
In a word, Catlett has dared to think differently, to perceive differently, and to create images that are true to her own vision and commitment to be a voice against racism, sexism, discrimination and oppression, wherever it may be found. Catlett has long been a horizon artist in the African Diaspora, writ large.