SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming Talk in DC on 03/02

I’m gearing up for my “Afrochic” talk at CAA this Friday (!) but soon after that I will be heading to my natal city of DC to give another talk about some relatively new research of mine at the Library of Congress. Chocolate City Peeps come check it out!

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Adjoa Osei – PhD Researcher, University of Liverpool
Lá vem a baiana

The Portuguese term baiana translates as ‘woman from the state of Bahia’, and refers to Afro-descendent women street vendors in Salvador de Bahia. Beginning in the 1920s, the black or mulata body in motion, as represented by the baiana, was officially elevated as a symbol of the modern, mestiça Brazilian corporality. This presentation explores the shifts in representations of the baiana archetype to an emblem of Brazilian national identity. I track the baiana across geographic spaces, performed on stage by various black women performers including Brazilian soprano Elsie Houston, Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham.

Adjoa Osei is a Kluge Center fellow at the Library of Congress, resident from October 2018 until April 2019. She is a PhD Researcher of Brazilian Studies at the University of Liverpool, funded by the AHRC and the Duncan Norman Scholarship. She completed an MPhil in Portuguese Studies at the University of Oxford, funded by the Ertegun Scholarship in the Humanities, achieving a Distinction. Prior to this, she completed a BA in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at King’s College London, University of London achieving a First-Class Honours. She co-organises the Image, Sound and Performance Research Group at the University of Liverpool.

Dr. Camara Dia Holloway, Independent Scholar
Dark Beauty, Bright Ambition: Navigating Black Stardom in Jazz Age NY/LON

This presentation is an exploration of the lives and careers of black women performers for whom London was the key point of anchor, besides Harlem, as they pursued their professional goals during the interwar period. With a thriving bohemian scene and ever-growing audience clamoring for jazz, the British entertainment industry provided plentiful opportunities for black performers. Florence Mills, Elisabeth Welch, Nina Mae McKinney and Edna Thomas will be amongst those discussed. Less studied than the New York-Paris axis, the NY/LON networks offer rich insights for those interested in this important moment in modernist and black cultural histories.

Dr. Camara Dia Holloway is an independent scholar whose research is focused on issues of race and representation between the Two World Wars. Her talk is drawn from ongoing research examining the interwar connections between Harlem and London entitled “Harlem on Thames.” Dr. Holloway earned her PhD from the Department of History of Art at Yale University. She is the founding co-director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH).

Sala Elise Patterson, Independent Scholar
Finding Ady: Recovering the Story of a Black Surrealist Muse

Adrienne ‘Ady’ Fidelin (1915-2004) was a Guadeloupean dancer and model who became muse to a core group of avant-garde artists in Paris, and the first Black model to appear in a major American fashion magazine. Fidelin is captured in hundreds of works by the celebrated American artist Man Ray, produced between 1936 and 1940 when the two were lovers. She was also the subject of work by Pablo Picasso, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, yet there have been only scant and often erroneous references to her in literature on the period. This talk chronicles the decade-long, transatlantic effort to discover who Fidelin was, and what happened to her before and after those few, well-documented years with Man Ray. It asks why Fidelin “disappeared” in the first place, and how the tendency to marginalize black women’s stories played a part.

Sala Elise Patterson is a writer and researcher of overlooked stories of the African Diaspora. A former magazine editor, she has written for The Atlantic’s CityLab, New Internationalist, Ford Foundation Report, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine, where she brought Adrienne Fidelin’s story to the American mainstream in 2007 with the article, “Yo, Adrienne.” Patterson co-authored the bibliographic entry on Fidelin in the Oxford Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biographies, and an essay on her in the forthcoming Musée D’Orsay exhibition catalogue for The Black Model: From Géricault to Matisse. She holds a BA from Columbia University in African-American Literature and an MSc in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.


Harlem on my mind (forthcoming essay on Dawoud Bey’s photos of Harlem)

“Harlem: Found Ways” is a new exhibition opening today at The Cooper Gallery at Harvard University that “presents artistic visions and engagements specific to Harlem, New York City, in the last decades.” Check it out if you are in Cambridge this summer!

And, look for an essay by yours truly in the exhibition catalogue reflecting on Dawoud Bey’s two important photographic series Harlem, U.S.A. and Harlem Redux, selections of which are featured in the show. These preview photos are courtesy of Dawoud.

I love archives: The amazing Katherine Dunham

Eighty years ago this month, an anthropologist named Katherine Dunham made her New York City dance debut at the 92nd Street Y. The 28 year old Chicago native choreographed and performed with her own company of dancers as part of “A Negro Dance Evening” organized by fellow dancers Edna Guy and Allison Burroughs. Born in […]

via Katherine Dunham in New York City — MCNY Blog: New York Stories

New exhibition of photos of 1957 civil rights march by Lee Friedlander

Check out this exhibition Let Us March On: Lee Friedlander and the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom at the Yale University Art Gallery curated by my former student, La Tanya Autry.

The Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, a virtually forgotten civil rights gathering at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on May 17, 1957, was photographed by Lee Friendlander.

This look back can hopefully provide inspiration for our trying times…



James Barnor, photographer

Having spent several summers in Accra, I was delighted to learn about the incredible photographer, James Barnor, who operated the Ever Young studio in Jamestown. Autograph mounted an exhibition of his work: and an accompanying monograph has been published of his work. He has visited the US for the first time and spoke at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Celestial Sphere, Color Movies, Gardens on Parade!

Worthy cause.

MCNY Blog: New York Stories

Ephemera from the Collection on the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair.  Museum of the City of New York, X2013.156.6024.Promotional ephemera from the Collection on the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. Museum of the City of New York, X2013.156.6.

Help the Museum digitize its 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair Collection!

The Museum’s New York World’s Fair collections continue to be a major resource for researchers all over the globe, and past research inquiries span a broad range of subjects, including: small format cinema technology, Cleveland artists who exhibited at the 1939 American Art building, and the Fair’s poetry contest.  The Museum first shared information about these collections in January 2013, shortly after learning we had received funding from Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to embark upon a collaborative 18-month project with the Queens Museum of Art to make our collections from both the 1939/40 and 1964/65 New York World’s Fairs more accessible as a result of a generous grant from the Council on Library and…

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F. Holland Day, Imperial Masculinity, and the Intimacy of Photography

Prepping a talk on F. Holland Day for a symposium. Here is my co-panelist, Shawn Michelle Smith’s take on him.

The Photographic Situation

Shawn Michelle Smith reflects on F. Holland Day’s exotic look and intimate looking

In the spring of 1901, F. Holland Day arrived unannounced at Frederick Evans’s studio in London, wearing a burnoose.  Evans invited him in to be photographed, and the two collaborated in making a series of intimate portraits of Day in Algerian dress.[i]  The portraits correspond to the height of Day’s international prominence as promoter and practitioner of the New American School of photography, a movement devoted to establishing photography as an art form through Pictorialist aesthetics.  After receiving mixed reviews in London, Day’s New American School exhibition was a huge success at the Photo-Club of Paris in the spring of 1901.  The exhibition showcased the work of Clarence White, Edward Steichen, and Day himself, among others, and included images from Day’s sacred series and his so-called “Nubian” series.  After the exhibition closed in Paris, Day and his young…

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Sponsored Love: Take Wing And Soar & New Heritage Theatre Group Presents “The Importance Of Being Earnest”

While I am not opposed to the idea of re-incarnating Wilde from a African American perspective, I do find this poster questionable. This imagery is very reminiscent of the caricatured theatrical and entertainment venue ephemera of the interwar period when Harlem was in vogue, but racism and racialism very much alive. I know I suffer from racial paranoia when it comes to visual culture but all too often imagery that is meant to valorize African Americans is too reminiscent of pejorative imagery.


Duke Ellington’s Symphony in Black, Starring A 19-Year-old Billie Holiday (video)

Daughters of the Dust

I recently gave a talk at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts about the film Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash. It is an amazing film – it is definitely in my Top 10 list of all time favorites. So I thought I would share this recent video about the Gullah who are the formerly enslaved Africans featured in the film.

Slave Descendants Uphold African Roots