African American Art Galleries and Museums to Support for Black Solidarity Day

As the anticipated International African American Museum gears up for a grand opening in 2020, we couldn’t help but find out what other black-centric museums and exhibits around the country are worth checking out right now.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking exhibits, some by African American artists, but all of them about African American life for African American viewers, whether they’re art enthusiasts, art geeks, or just simply looking to learn something new.

Soul of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, Brooklyn Museum

This exhibit takes viewers through the most political and revolutionary period of American history. The more than 150 artworks displayed throughout the exhibition aim to address the unjust conditions that African American artists faced from 1963 to 1983, a time of political and social revolution.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 14, 2018-Feb. 3, 2019

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, New York Historical Society Museum & Library

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow explores the struggles African Americans faced for full citizenship and racial equality. It is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I and highlights how African Americans advocated for their rights during that time. The exhibit opened in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 7, 2018-Mar. 3, 2019

Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past, African American Museum in Philadelphia

The exhibition features 35 large-scale photographs, as well as an installation and altarpiece by artist John E. Dowell, all aiming to “explore the dichotomy between the beauty of the plant and its inexorable link to the horrors of chattel slavery in the U.S.”

It also looks at the often overlooked history of slavery in the north.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 15, 2018-Jan. 21, 2019

Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture, National Museum of African American History & Culture at the Smithsonian

This special exhibition features the life of the media mogul, philanthropist, and actress and will also showcase her roles as a film producer; TV host, with her successful daytime talk show; and educator. Visitors will be able to explore Winfrey’s influence and the impact that she has on the world. The museum will feature artifacts from the very first Harpo Studios in Chicago and much more.

Find out more information, here.

June 2018-June 2019

AFreauX, Zucot Gallery

The exhibit features a group of African American artists who express their artwork through the gritty, colorful, and dynamic trends of the street art movements. In a press release on the exhibit, their collective artwork is described as, “a rebellious response” and a “departure from current trends,” speaking to the African American narrative and experience.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 22, 2018-Nov. 16, 2018

Think: A Tribute to the Queen of Soul, The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

With this exhibit, the Detroit museum plans to honor Aretha Franklin’s life and legacy. The exhibit will feature photographs— loaned by photographers to help honor the late Queen of Soul—showcasing her work and life.

Find out more information, here.

Sept. 25, 2018-Jan. 21, 2019

Facing the Rising Sun Freedman’s Cemetery and The Souls of Black Folk, African American Museum, Dallas

The two exhibitions, “Facing the Rising Sun Freedman’s Cemetery” and “The Souls of Black Folk,” present two views of African American art in life and art in Dallas, Texas.

Visitors will get the chance to see and hear from people who knew about Freedman’s town, later known as North Dallas, through interactive video, historical documents, objects, and photographs.

Over 500 objects are on display in “The Souls of Black Folk” courtesy of the Billy R. Allen Folk Art Collection.

Visitors can also check out a few other exhibits housed in the museum, including, “Genesis: African American Artists,” which shows the work of 36 local Dallas artists.

Find out more information, here.


International African American Museum, South Carolina

The highly anticipated museum is set to open in 2020. The IAAM will explore the deep-rooted history of African Americans, presenting untold and under-told experiences and contributions of African Americans. The museum has so far received a variety of donations from companies such as BMW, Viacom, and BB&T and a $ 10 million donation from the Lilly Endowment. This museum is definitely one to keep on your radar.

Find out more information, here.

Opening in 2020

The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes, North Carolina Museum of History

The exhibition will showcase many original paintings and artifacts of artist and Durham native, Ernie Barnes. Barnes was known for his exquisite and unique style. His iconic “Sugar Shack” painting was featured on the hit show, Good Times. The painting also appeared on the Marvin Gaye I Want You album cover. According to the museum, he is the first professional American athlete to become a noted painter.

Find out more information, here.

June 2018- March 2019

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Award-Winning Film ‘Charcoal’ Heads to National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution

Francesca Andre combined her experiences with colorism and passion for storytelling into Charcoal, an award-winning film which puts the spotlight on healing from prejudice, discrimination, and preferential treatment based on the skin tone, facial features, and hair textures among people of the same race. Now, her short film is making its way to the National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution as part of Skin Deep exhibit: Colorism across the African diaspora.

Black Enterprise caught up with Andre to learn more about her inspiration behind the film and hopes for changing the conversation about beauty in the black community.

BE: What inspired you to produce a film about internal colorism? Can you describe your personal experiences with this topic?

I wanted to tell a story about healing, about women redefining their own beauty and taking back their power despite the pervasive effects of colorism. I wrote Charcoal as I recalled these painful experiences and events with colorism growing up in Haiti. I was made aware of my skin tone and hair texture at a very young age. I noticed that people with lighter skin were praised and considered beautiful compared to others with darker skin. My grandmother joked that I got my “bad hair” from my father’s side of the family because her side of the family had very long and curly hair. While these conversations were common and seemed normal at the time, they slowly begin to erode one’s self-esteem and self-worth. I realized that I had internalized these toxic beliefs in my teenage years throughout my adulthood, so I had to unlearn all these toxic misconceptions about beauty, hair, and its relation to one’s worth. I am happy to say that I now have a very healthy relationship with my skin and hair.

Francesca Andre

Francesca Andre

BE: In your experiences, what are the impacts of internalized colorism, particularly when it comes to getting ahead in your career or managing healthy relationships?

As a woman photographer working to become a cinematographer, racism and sexism are more of a detriment to my career than colorism. I also think my experiences with internal colorism provide an opportunity for me as a storyteller to reverse the effects by changing the light skin vs. dark skin narrative. Representation in film is important and is a powerful tool to bring attention to these issues.

BE: Charcoal spotlights the fact that beliefs about skin color are passed down in families. In prior interviews, you’ve said “Despite the #melaninpoppin and #blackgirlmagic hashtag movements meant to uplift all shades of blackness, there’s still work to be done. When it comes to colorism, what do you think we as a community need more of or less of?

We need to talk more about it. It’s dirty, it’s taboo and it’s destructive. Just because it’s not always right in your face doesn’t mean it’s not happening. These movements are great at bringing issues to light, but there are also many communities that are not aware of these conversations. Today there are very popular Internet figures in my community who are selling bleaching creams. As long as “light skin” continues to be the standard of beauty, women will continue to bleach their skin as a way to adapt and survive. However, if we celebrate every hue and hair texture, not just the 3C curly hair, we might be able to change minds and change the way that people perceive themselves and their beauty. America can take the lead in this plight.

BE: What are the top two messages you want people to take away from the film?

Healing takes time. These beliefs didn’t happen overnight and it will take time for you to unlearn the lies that you were taught and have internalized about the color of your skin, your hair texture, your voice, your existence as a woman of color. Self-love is a hell of a weapon! Use it, practice it, apply it, and pass it on to your friends, colleagues, and children. Break the cycle!

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