National Gallery Of Art Exhibit Touches On Region's Sordid History With Slavery | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

National Gallery Of Art Exhibit Touches On Region's Sordid History With Slavery

Play associated audio
"Bang" (1994) by Kerry James Marshall.
Image courtesy of National Gallery of Art
"Bang" (1994) by Kerry James Marshall.

The National Gallery of Art is running an exhibit connected with this weekend's March on Washington, and it delves into the region's sordid history with slavery.

When you walk into The Tower of the National Gallery, you're confronted with two of Americas most lauded presidents overseeing their sprawling Virginia plantations—dotted with little black specks. Those indistinguishable dots mark the hundreds of slaves George Washington and Thomas Jefferson "owned."

As marchers walk past the gallery this weekend many won't venture inside to remember the struggle for basic freedom that preceded the civil rights movement, but artist Kerry James Marshall says the two can't be separated.

"Yeah, there is a history and that history actually matters because you can see ways in which that history has impacts on the way people are operating in the world today. On some level a lack of knowledge of that history means that you are more vulnerable to being used and/or dismissed and marginalized," he says.

The nation's slave roots are also depicted in Marshall's portrayal of the Middle Passage, where formerly free men were plucked from Africa and herded onto ships that themselves became death chambers for countless men, women and children.

Marshall is the first living African American to have a show at the National Gallery, an honor he's using to stir uncomfortable conversations about topics that often hover just outside of today's discussions about racial politics.

"Looking at a history of a people who have been enslaved always leads to the same sort of outcome, I think, and part of it is shame. And that shameful, sort of, reality is something a lot of black folks don t want to be reminded of, and don t want to be associated with," he explains.

Curator James Meyer says he wanted the exhibit up during the anniversary of the march because Marshall raises the same questions about black economic and political participation raised by civil rights leaders a half century ago.

The exhibit is scheduled to be up until December.

NPR

A Punch Line In The U.S., Christmas Fruitcake Is Big In Calcutta

Seen as indestructible in the West, fruitcakes are indispensable in the bustling Hindu city. Bakers of all faiths have the ovens running round the clock to feed Calcutta's appetite for the cakes.
NPR

Inside The Indiana Megadairy Making Coca-Cola's New Milk

Coca-Cola got a lot of attention in November when it announced it was going into the milk business. In fact, its extra-nutritious milk product was invented by some dairy farmers in Indiana.
NPR

What To Expect In The 2016 Presidential Announcement Season

With Jeb Bush signaling he's likely to run for president in 2016, it's another sign that the presidential announcement season is underway. Here's a look at who has jumped in the race early and what to expect in the coming months.
NPR

2014 Hashtags: #BringBackOurGirls Made Nigerian Schoolgirls All Of 'Ours'

As part of a series on hashtag activism in 2014, Audie Cornish speaks with Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Open Society Foundation. Ezekwesili was one of the early promoters of the hashtag #bringbackourgirls, about schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria in April.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.