The Black Boilermaker

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Jasmine Morris
English 106

The Black Boilermaker

Imagine coming to Purdue University and walking around. You attend every class, eat at the dinning courts, and live in the dorms. You realize that your race makes up less than 1% of the schools population. This fact held true to the first African Americans that attended Purdue University starting in 1890. To this date, African Americans are still less than 4% percent of the population here on campus in. African Americans have endured many trials and tribulations since 1890. The BOILERMAKER painting by Derek Fordjour is very effective at representing the history of the black student population at Purdue University.

Before the painting can be analyzed, the historical context behind the poster has to be explained. As stated in the introduction, The BIOLERMAKER was donated to the Purdue Black Cultural Center by Derek Fordjour. The painting contains much symbolism. The “boilermaker” is an African American construction worker. This represents the building of the black community here at Purdue University. The construction worker has a tool belt that contains a brick. The brick represents the 1968 protest that led to the Black Cultural Center, where African American students marched to Hovde Hall and laid bricks on the front steps. The mortar on the on the brick represents the Purdue and its decision to build up the University and make it more inclusive. The construction worker has his hand stretched out to symbolize the efforts of Black Purdue Alumni, faculty, and staff who are committed to the encourage African American to continue to attend Purdue University. The sledge hammer is a major statement demonstrating that this process is still ongoing and getting stronger.

The explanation of the symbolism is important for this who may not understand the context of the painting first. The audience is for African Americans that attend or have attended Purdue University. This is clear because the construction worker...
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