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30 for 30: Art, Agency, Legacy

October 2019 – January 2020


30 for 30: Art, Agency, Legacy celebrates 30 years of programming and partnerships at The Amistad Center for Art & Culture. The exhibition presents 30 episodes, objects or realities that compelled individuals to make epic choices. From the 1839 campaign to free the Amistad captives in Connecticut to the publication of Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography six years later, and Harriet Tubman’s Civil War service, the 19th century was marked by compelling episodes where the choices of notable individuals shaped Black American history and influenced the nation.

James van der Zee, the Scurlock family, and other Black photographers recorded epic choices of the 20th century. Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert at Washington DC’s Lincoln Memorial influenced civil rights leaders 20 years later when planning the 1963 March on Washington. Marcus Garvey’s dream of an armada sailing Black Americans to Africa motivated many while annoying his civil rights peers. Ideological tensions represented by the nonviolent activism of Dr. King’s Beloved Community and the self-defense response of the Black Panther Party also highlight the continuing significance of the gun; from the debates over arming Black soldiers during the Civil War to Angela Davis’ 1972 acquittal on charges of kidnapping, murder, and criminal conspiracy, guns have redefined Black imagery in complicated ways.

With work by Lorna Simpson, Emory Douglas, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Hank Willis Thomas, David Washington, Jacob Lawrence, Carrie Mae Weems, and others, 30 for 30 salutes the artists, thinkers, activists, and everyday people whose epic choices affirm a history of stepping out with faith– expecting nothing– but landing, creating, and leaving a legacy.

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