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Albert Chong, "Two Generations"

Albert Chong, Two Generations

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Jamaican-born Albert Chong (b. 1958), an artist of African and Chinese descent, shows the history of migration and immigration and the roots tying diasporic subjects to the Caribbean with his inclusion of the passport, necklace, and tools.

Alice Walker

Alice Walker

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Alice Walker, "In Search of Our Mother᾿s Gardens"

Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother's Gardens

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This manuscript page not only demonstrates Alice Walker᾿s attention to detail and revision but also her effort to distinguish between the "bod[ies]" and "spirit[s]" of the black women who were denied the possibility of becoming writers and artists.

August Wilson

August Wilson

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Betye Saar, Miss Ruby Brown

Betye Saar, Miss Ruby Brown

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In this assemblage, Betye Saar (b. 1926) honors ordinary black women in her development of the persona Miss Ruby Brown. Miss Ruby Brown, dressed in a mnochromatic red turn of the twentieth-century outfit and surrounded by, among other items, torn red and gold brocade fabric, a flower brooch, and a red kid leather glove, claims the glamour and femininity often denied black women in popular representations. This assemblage is in line with Saar᾿s continuous project to challenge and transform degrading images of African-Americans, often rooted in minstrel stereotypes, a project visible in her well-known The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972).

Eric Gay, Hurricane Katrina

Eric Gay, Hurricane Katrina

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Photographer Eric Gay took this picture of Louisiana resident Milvertha Knight Hendricks (1920-2009) outside of the New Orleans convention center two days after Hurricane Katrina struck the city, flooding the mostly black and impoverished Lower Ninth ward. The photograph challenges national narratives regarding opportunity and access; the framing of her face by an American flag blanket highlights what many describe as a failure to protect the most vulnerable citizens at the city, state, and national levels. The cropping of the fellow survivors surrounding her highlights the individual᾿s experience in forced migration.

Ernest J. Gaines

Ernest J. Gaines

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Gloria Naylor

Gloria Naylor

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Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

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Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five pose backstage at the Ritz, 1981.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

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Hurricane Katrina᾿s path of destruction included Gulfport, Mississippi, hometown of Natasha Trethewey and subject of her nonfiction book Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid

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June Jordan and the Sisterhood

June Jordan and the Sisterhood

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Vertamae Grosvenor, Alice Walker, Lori Sharpe, Toni Morrison, June Jordan, Nana Maynard, Ntozake Shange, and Audrey Edwards met informally in New York during the 1970s.

Kara Walker

Kara Walker

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Kara Walker᾿s (b. 1969) work interrogates the relationship between history, power, and racial and sexual violence. Her works, often controversial in their use of minstrel stereotypes, such as mammys, pickaninnies, and Uncle Toms, expose an intergenerational conflict regarding the artist᾿s obligation to the collective between artists maturing during the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements and those achieving fame in the 1990s. In this 12' x 17' projection and cut paper installation, Walker depicts an enslaved girl stabbing her mistress as a shackled slave wearing a collar device watches. Slaveholders used such collars to discipline and identify enslaved men and women deemed rebellious or prone to running away.

Ma Rainy and the Band

Ma Rainy and the Band

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Ma Rainey, who recorded a popular version of "C. C. Rider," poses with her band in 1923.

Martin Puryear, "Vessel"

Martin Puryear, Vessel

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Martin Puryear᾿s (b. 1941) life-size Vessel, the shape calling to mind a bottle, an old house, or a ship, does away with distinctions of "inner" and "outer" with its wooden grid revealing a large ampersand. The ampersand, a form covered in black tar, is reminiscent of a sitting body with elbows resting on bent knees. The enclosure and the figure it contains gives the sculpture a powerful resonance in the context of the African diaspora, calling to mind histories of the middle passage and incarceration as well as making a claim to black interiority. Puryear rose to prominence in the 1970s and is known for his blending minimalist aesthetic, the use of simple, large, often geometric shapes, with traditional craftsmanship.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye

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Marvin Gaye in the studio working on What᾿s Going On, 1971.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

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Migratory agricultural workers

 Migratory agricultural workers

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This photograph of two men walking alongside a North Carolina road, heading North, evokes the alienation and uncertain future Herald Loomis faces in Joe Turner᾿s Come and Gone.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone

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Nina Simone performs at the Newport Jazz Festival, 1967.

Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange

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Ntozake Shange, Tzarana Beverley, Janet League

Ntozake Shange, Tzarana Beverley, Janet League

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Janet League, Ntozake Shange, and Tzarana Beverley, from left to right, perform in a 1976 production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

Obama Family at Inauguration

Obama Family at Inauguration

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This photograph of the Obama family waving to the crowd upon president Barack Obama᾿s swearing in as the 44th president of the United States on January 20, 2009 promises a new beginning through youth, hope, and change to a beleaguered nation facing an economic recession and still reeling from September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. The photograph makes clear the extraordinary progress made in the past fifty years in terms of popular perception, social justice and civil rights and, when viewed in relation to Eric Gay᾿s photograph of Hurricane Katrina survivor Milvertha Knight Hendricks, the change still yet to come.

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler

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Passageway 2

Passageway 2

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In step with her literary peers' renewed interest in history, Weems᾿s photograph from The Louisiana Project imagines an antebellum black woman viewing the expansive grounds of a plantation.

Presidential Inauguration, 2009

Presidential Inauguration, 2009

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President Barack Obama᾿s inauguration, uniting generations of black Americans across class, region, and gender divides, affirmed feelings of national belonging and renewed hopes in the struggle for racial equality.

Public Enemy᾿s Chuck D

Public Enemy᾿s Chuck D

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Rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy performs in 1990.

Radio Players

Radio Players

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Bringing together young and old, rich and poor, Frank Stewart᾿s (b. 1949) The Radio Players captures a block party on an urban city street.

Rita Dove

Rita Dove

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President Barack Obama awards the 2011 national Medal of Arts to American poet and author Rita Dove.

Romare Bearden, Jazz Village

Romare Bearden, Jazz Village

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Romare Bearden᾿s (1911-1988) roles as artist, jazz lyricist, humanist and community organizer are all visible in his efforts to depict diverse scenes of African American life from the rural south to the urban north. This collage, representative of his best known medium and style, depicts a four-member jazz band against a brick wall and balances the tension betwee the modern and the vernacular by simultaneously evoking the fragmentation produced by the Great Migration and artist and activist calls for a unifying black aesthetic from the Harlem Renaissance through the Black Afts movement in its reference to jazz.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

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Stevie Wonder performing in 1973.

Suzan-Lori Parks

Suzan-Lori Parks

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Suzan Lori-Parks celebrates in front of the Ambassador Theater shortly after hearing that her play, Topdog/Underdog, won the Pulitzer Prize in drama, April 2002.

The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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Akosua Busia and Whoopi Goldberg on the set of The Color Purple, a 1985 Steven Spielberg film based off Alice Walkers' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel

The Notorious B.I.G. funeral caravan

The Notorious B.I.G. funeral caravan

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Fans and residents await the funeral caravan for The Notorious B.I.G. in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, 1997.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

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Topdog/Underdog

<em>Topdog/Underdog</em>

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Showing the setting of the run-down boarding-house room used in the Broadway production at the Ambassador Theater, this photograph hints at the resentments and tensions the two brothers, Booth (Mos Def) and Licoln (Jeffrey Wright), share in Suzan-Lori Parks᾿s Topdog/Underdog

Two men in black and white

Two men in black and white

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The arm over the shoulder of one and the affectionate finger pointing of the other belie these two men᾿s stoic faces in this Budd Williams (b. 1949) photograph, which encourages conversations about black masculinity and friendship.

W.C. Handy

W.C. Handy

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Blues musician W.C. Handy, "the father of the blues," composing at his piano.