“Burroughs had a vision of doing more to preserve black heritage. With her husband, Burroughs converted the ground floor of their old Chicago mansion into a small museum in which they could display a variety of artifacts. More than 500 people toured the museum during its first year. Heartened by the public’s interest, Burroughs devoted herself to raising funds for the museum. She firmly believed that this museum would enrich lives, especially those of young black people. “A museum …shows kids they can be somebody,” Burroughs stated in Black Enterprise.
By emphasizing the cultural and racial roots of black people, Burroughs hoped to teach young people that not only could they be somebody but that they came from a proud and strong black heritage. Besides serving as a repository for black art, papers, artifacts, and memorabilia, the museum also met the needs of its visitors with youth activities, essay contests, art festivals, and poetry festivals. By 1970, museum attendance was more than 30,000 annually.” [Source]
The Art by Kadir Nelson | Black Art Appreciation Series
Kadir Nelson is a critically acclaimed artist and illustrator. He has
received many awards and honors for his children’s books, including the
2009 Sibert Medal for We Are the Ship, a Coretta Scott King Award for Ellington Was Not a Street, written by Ntozake Shange, and the NAACP Image Award for Just the Two of Us, written by Will Smith.
1) Gentleman with Negro Attendant by Ralph Earl, 1785-88. New Britain Museum of American Art.
2) Jaavon with Unknown Gentleman by Titus Kaphar. New Britain Museum of American Art.
“Earl’s portrait depicts a large, well-dressed white man waited on by a young black boy. This kind of portrait – where a servant is portrayed only as a sign of the wealth of his master – was common in Colonial America. As Kaphar elaborates, ‘In the original painting, Gentleman with Negro Attendant the black child is stripped of all identity. He has no name, grotesquely articulated features and is bereft of human dignity. In Jaavon and the Unknown Gentleman, the black figure is replaced with a living and particular child – my young neighbor.’ In repainting Earl’s original work, Kaphar returns specificity to the figure of the black boy. The “gentleman”, however, becomes “unknown”, as Kaphar cuts holes in the canvas where the head and hands of the “gentleman” were once rendered. By changing the original title, Kaphar further shifts the underlying power structure in Earl’s portrait.”–NBMAA Blog