This is one of several posts where I share quotes and food-for-thought from Chang’s book – Who We Be: The Colorization of America.*
(earlier posts: on Introduction, Chapter 1)
This quote is from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Desegregation and the Future given at the December 1956 annual luncheon of the National Committee for Rural Schools.
About this post. I share some excerpts from Chang’s work in his Chapter 2 – After Jericho: The Struggle Against Invisibility, which is one of five chapters in Part One, A New Culture, 1963-1979 of this book. The subsections of Chapter 2 are titled as follows –
– In the White Gallery
– The Spiral
– Picturing the Struggle
– The Rise of The Southern Strategy
– What Remained Unseen
– Saving America’s Soul
I also share reference to a recent New York Times article, Black Artists and the March Into the Museum – After decades of spotty acquisitions and token exhibitions, American
museums are rewriting the history of 20th-century art to include black artists, which Chang shared on Facebook.
Chapter 2 provides a historical overview around the Civil Rights Movement era – Black artists, politics, (e.g., presidential campaigns throughout the 1960s), racism, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings, and the growing tension among artists and the museum/gallery entities.
In the Year 1963
Chapter 2 begins with Chang sharing several events from 1963, which included:
Throughout Chapter 2, Chang weaves between and among presidential campaigns, black artists’ pursuits, the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings and perspectives, and museums and galleries excluding Black artists’ works.
:: The American Spectrum … Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger … These works finally secured [Faith Ringgold] the serious attention from critics, peers, and elders that she had sought. Yet the paintings did not sell. “We want to see something that’s restful and nice to the eyes,” one man told her. “I don’t want your painting screaming at me from the wall.” But for Ringgold the history of art, the history of generations, indeed the history of America, was the history of lines drawn by color.” ::
:: Nixon understood that in the long run he needed to change the entire civil discourse. The civil rights movement had reshaped the national conversation about race. It had begun to build a new cultural consensus that supported the exercise of federal power for racial and economic justice with a capacious morality. The Southern strategy was, by no means, a fait accompli. ::
:: As the sixties roared to a close, Black artists were debating form, content, and social responsibility with increasing urgency. But no matter their politics or their aesthetics, they all shared the condition of invisibility and they were increasingly unwilling to tolerate this condition. They would no longer be unseen. They would demand recognition. ::
NYT Article, November 2015
This morning, I was getting ready to post this above overview. However, I saw from my Facebook feed that Chang posted a link to this New York Times article, Black Artists and the March Into the Museum, so I read the article, given my finishing up this post. Chang posted his reaction to the NYT article, which included (excerpt) –
FIRST REACTION: Surprised and happy to see this on the front page of the NYT.
BUT ON SECOND THOUGHT: The more I think about this piece the less happy I am with it.
The piece makes exactly zero note of any of the organizing that Black artists did to try to force museums and institutions to de-invisibilize Black art from the early 20th century to the 1969 Harlem On My Mind pickets (of which Norman Lewis was a co-organizer) to the Yams Collective withdrawal from the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
And there is exactly less than zero note of the relationship between the artists and the activists—many of whom were one and the same—who were living and acting within larger justice and equity movements in their time.
After reading the NYT article and Chang’s comment, I revisited this Chapter 2 to pull one other reference Chang shared in Who We Be –
:: While the [Metropolitan Musuem of Art’s Harlem on My Mind: The Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900-1968] featured Black photographers, musicians, poets, and performers, it excluded Black visual artists. Instead the Met only allowed them a panel discussion. The politics of protest had only enabled this absurd arrangement: the artists’ art could not be seen, but the artists could be seen talking about not being seen. ::
* This is sparking ideas in me for colorized improv, environmental communications, and knowledge/ignorance discussions.