I Got The Music In Me
African American History is unusual in many respects, but one of its most unique aspects is that it comes with a soundtrack. Floating across the Atlantic the music of African was dispersed through all parts of the diaspora in the Americas. Through the triumphs and tragedies, the singers sang, the drummers drummed, in short, the band played on nurturing and sustaining the people.
In the United States and across both continents this African original music morphed, modified and diffused its way into all the components of “American” music—folk, blues, country and western, gospel, jazz, classical, rhythm and blues, opera and more. Sometimes whispering and sometimes roaring, but always making its presence felt. The music and the people are one and separable.
The Florida Highwaymen
The Florida Highwaymen were a collection of friends, 25 men and 1 woman, who beginning in the late 1960s made their living from painting. This was an unusual occurrence in that the friends were black and they were selling their paintings to a white audience in the segregated South. The artists were motivated by economic urgency to earn a “good” living that could not be achieved by through agricultural labor. Showing skills in early childhood, they later later discovered that those skills would enable them to earn a profitable living creating art. From these humble beginnings a new art movement emerged—Florida Regional Landscape School which some consider the last great American art movement of the 20th century. Today we celebrate them for their ingenuity, creativity, entrepreneurship and perseverance. Their achievement of artistic and commercial success was unparalleled. Among numerous honors and accolades, the Highwaymen as a group were inducted into the Florida Hall of Fame.
4 Little Girls
The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham Alabama on September 15th , 1963 was one of the most heinous and infamous tragedies of the modern civil rights era. The bombing killed four little girls—Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14) and injured scores of others. This event marked the most people killed at one time in the decades-long bombing campaign in “Bombingham” and in the entire civil rights movement up to that time. The bombing resonated with many people. Artists were motivated to recount and remember it and mark the slaughter and sacrifice of those innocent children. Four artists in the collection constructed original works of commemoration—Frank Frazier, Billy Morrow Jackson, John Scott, and Thomas Williams. We will explore each artist’s image in depth.
Memories of Martyrs
Harold Smith has created a complex visual piece that recalls and memorializes the numerous African Americans who have died while in custody or were killed by law enforcement. This image consists of a large spectral black body that is riddled with bullet holes. Each of the bullet holes is dripping blood and has a face of a martyr at its center. The martyrs remind us that even in the most innocent of encounters with the authorities a death sentence may result.