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Dear BGC Friends,

Today we are bringing you part two of 86th Street Stories to celebrate the last day of Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.

Please enjoy some readings, events, and local exhibitions to celebrate Black History now, and throughout the year! 

Your co-editors,

Nadia Rivers and Maggie Walter


Revisit BGC’s Seminars in Art and Material Culture of Africa and the African Diaspora

Rhizomatic Forms and Global Black Aesthetics
Monica L. Miller (Barnard College, Columbia University)
November 19, 2021

Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration
Nicole R. Fleetwood (Rutgers University)
March 31, 2021

Can We Forget? A Memorial to Enslaved Laborers
Mabel O. Wilson (Columbia University)
March 31, 2021

NYC Exhibitions – Still On View:

Moses Sumney: Blackalachia
Nicola Vassell Gallery
February 3–March 5, 2022

Nicola Vassell Gallery is pleased to present Moses Sumney: Blackalachia, a feature length performance film and photographic series created by the artist in the North Carolina stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the summer of 2020. Sumney’s auteurial debut highlights issues at the center of his interdisciplinary practice, including non-binary thinking, isolation, emotional introspection and historical Black cultural influence.

Picturing Black Girlhood: Moments of Possibility
Express Newark

February 17–July 2, 2022

Picturing Black Girlhood: Moments of Possibility, is an international exhibition that features more than eighty Black women, girls, and genderqueer artists—ranging in age from 8 to 94—who work in the mediums of photography and film and have a sustained practice exploring the theme of Black girlhood. By bringing together iconic image-makers, emerging artists, and young photographers (over half the artists in the show are under 18), the show considers Black girlhood as an essential stage of development, an integral moment of political awakening, an embattled site of representation, and a critical source of artistic inspiration around the world. 

Black Dolls
New-York Historical Society
February 25–June 22, 2022

Black Dolls explores handmade cloth dolls made primarily by African American women between 1850 and 1940 through the lens of race, gender, and history. The exhibition immerses visitors in the world of dolls, doll play, and doll making while examining the formation of racial stereotypes and confronting the persistence of racism in American history. It features more than 100 cloth dolls, alongside dozens of historical photographs of white and Black children posed with their playthings and caregivers. A coda explores 20th-century commercial dolls marketed to a broader audience of Black families seeking to instill pride in their children. Through these humble yet potent objects, Black Dolls reveals difficult truths about American history and invites visitors to engage in the urgent national conversation around the legacy of slavery and race.

Faith Ringgold: American People
New Museum
February 17–June 5, 2022

Artist, author, educator, and organizer, Faith Ringgold is one of the most influential cultural figures of her generation, with a career linking the multi-disciplinary practices of the Harlem Renaissance to the political art of young Black artists working today. Bringing together over sixty years of work, Faith Ringgold: American People provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the artist’s impactful vision.

Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The title, Before Yesterday We Could Fly, is inspired by Virginia Hamilton’s legendary retellings of the Flying African tale, which celebrates enslaved peoples’ imagination, creative uses of flight, and the significance of spirituality and mysticism to Black communities in the midst of great uncertainty. Activated through vision, sound, and storytelling, and furnished with a kaleidoscope of works from The Met’s collection—from Bamileke beadwork and 19th-century American ceramics to contemporary art and design that celebrates rich and diverse traditions—the room foregrounds generations of African diasporic creativity. Before Yesterday We Could Fly also celebrates a number of new acquisitions made specifically for the project and is animated by exciting commissions from Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Fabiola Jean-Louis, and Jenn Nkiru.

Our Composite Nation: Frederick Douglass’ America
New-York Historical Society
February 11– Ongoing 

In the late 1860s—at a moment of great hope for the promise of equality under the law—the famed orator and once-enslaved abolitionist Frederick Douglass took his “Our Composite Nation” speech on the road to argue for a plural American democracy. The mission of this new nation, he declared, was to provide the world “a composite, perfect illustration of the unity of the human family.” For what was the U.S., he said, but “the most conspicuous example of composite nationality in the world?” Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by New York Historical Scholar Trustee David Blight, this special installation features artifacts, images, and a theatrical design that bring Douglass’ compelling speech to life and explores his vision of freedom, citizenship, and equal rights that remains urgently relevant today, as a hopeful plea for America to live up to its founding ideals.


Rest Notes: On Sleep and Black Contemporary Art
The Athenaeum, University of Georgia
March 2 at 6 pm 

Josie Hodson will discuss Black contemporary artists exploring the space of Black sleep, subverting its biopolitical regulation and the lethal expectation of perpetual industry. Artists such as Jennifer Packer, Noah Davis, and House/Full of Blackwomen show us the ways that visual representations of Black sleep can constitute quiet gestures of fugitivity and interiority in a culture that celebrates endurance over rest. Hodson will discuss projects bound by an ethos of collectivity, arguing that the project of transforming the social and political conditions that reproduce Black sleeplessness cannot be pursued in isolation.

Afrofuturism, a festival at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
February 12–March 26, 2022

Take a journey to the world of Afrofuturism—an ever-expansive aesthetic and practice—where music, visual arts, science fiction, and technology intersect to imagine alternate realities and a liberated future viewed through the lens of Black cultures. Immerse yourself in Afrofuturism, Carnegie Hall’s 2022 citywide festival.


BGC Social Media Submissions
This Black History Month, we are paying tribute to and celebrating the vast contributions that Black women and men have brought to the field of decorative arts, design history, and material culture. What curators, artists, craftspeople, academics, businesses or creatives do you want to celebrate this month, or next month for Women’s History Month? Submit your thoughts for a social media post here! 

BGC’s Collaborative Resource List
Take a look, and contribute to BGC’s Collaborative Resource List to get involved, learn, and take action in the fight for social justice. Check out the Black History Month Resources section!