"Ascent of Ethiopia” was painted by Lois Mailou Jones in 1932. This painting is about the history of African American culture, starting with Ethiopia, and ending with the Harlem Renaissance. “Ascent of Ethiopia” depicts a large profile of the head of a presumably ethiopian woman in the bottom right-hand corner. It shows crouching dark figures that seem to be traveling toward the light of a big bright star in the upper left-hand corner and a bright light coming from what is presumably Harlem in the upper right-hand corner.
This painting depicts some of the most important stories in African American story. The big star in the top left-hand corner represents two of these stories: the journey from Africa to America, with the star and lines next to it representing the stars of the American flag, as well as the journey out of slavery, with the star representing the Northern Star, which African Americans used as a guide when escaping slavery. The third theme is the story of gaining acceptance in American culture, specifically through the music and art of the Harlem Renaissance.
An obvious Harlem Renaissance theme in this painting is "exploration of Negro heritage and history." The painting explicitly tells the story of African Americans. The journey from Africa seems to end in this painting with the light coming from the Harlem Renaissance. Jones strategically places her depiction of Harlem right on top of the Ethiopian woman’s face. This could possibly mean that the culture of modern African Americans rests originally on it’s African ancestors. Also, the woman could be a depiction of Africa as a “mother” who gave birth to the African Americans in Harlem.