Somebody's Knocking at Your Door, from I'm Going to Sing: Black American Spirituals, Volume II

Ashley Bryan, American, 1923 - 2022



Linocut on wove paper

Artist's Proof

Image: 7 3/8 × 9 in. (18.7 × 22.9 cm)

Sheet: 12 7/16 × 16 9/16 in. (31.6 × 42 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Claire and Richard P. Morse 1953 Fund



Place Made: United States, North America


20th century

Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


Numbered, in graphite, lower left margin: A/P; titled, in graphite, lower center margin: Somebody's Knocking; signed, in graphite, lower right margin: ABryan


This work comes from Ashley Bryan’s second volume of Black American Spirituals. The spiritual for which the linocut is named suggests a call to answer Jesus, who is knocking at the door of the sinner. Set off by a black background, the image draws attention to the intimate bond between a mother—or grandmother—and child. The composition echoes the long art-historical tradition of depicting the Madonna and Child—Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus. Bryan alters the conventional image by presenting people of color in this intimate scene and by rendering the mother figure as an older woman, abjuring the element of chastity in the Madonna tradition. By not depicting idealized figures, Bearden allows the viewers to imagine themselves in the biblical narrative. The female figure wears a headscarf—a common practice among African American women dating back through slavery and rooted in African tradition.

From the 2019 exhibition A Space for Dialogue 97, Black Bodies on the Cross, curated by Victoria McCraven '19, Homma Family Intern

Course History

WRIT 5, Expository Writing, William Craig, Winter 2014

AAAS 88.19, Contemporary African-American Artists, Michael Chaney, Summer 2021

GEOG 72.01/AAAS 67.50/WGSS 66.09, Black Consciousness Black Feminism, Abby Neely, Spring 2022

Exhibition History

A Space for Dialogue 97, Black Bodies on the Cross, Victoria McCraven, Class of 2019, Homma Family Intern, Alvin P. Gutman Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, November 9, 2019-January 4, 2020.

In Residence: Contemporary Art at Dartmouth, Churchill P. Lathrop Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 18-July 6, 2014.

Publication History

Michael R. Taylor and Gerald Auten, In Residence: Contemporary Artists at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2013, ill. p. 63 , no. 49

Victoria McCraven, A Space for Dialogue 97, Black Bodies on the Cross, Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2020.


Warm Springs Gallery, Charlottesville, Virginia; sold to present collection, 2013.

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