April 4, 2009 – June 14, 2009
“Let your Motto be resistance! Resistance! RESISTANCE! No opposed people have ever secured Liberty without resistance” – abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet, 1843
Garnet’s words have found their way into the title – and the essence – of the inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Presented by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits” opens at MoAD on April 4 and will be on view until June 14, 2009. The exhibition consists of 70 modern prints selected from the National Portrait Gallery’s collections highlighting 150 years of African American resistance in the U.S.
In the context of photographs, resistance took many forms. Working with a growing circle of African American intellectuals and professionals, photographers often challenged the prevailing view of blacks as intellectually and socially inferior. Dramatic images of labor leader A. Philip Randolph (1948) and activist Malcolm X (1963) spotlight those who confronted racism and social injustice head-on. Other highlights include images of boxing legend Joe Louis (c. 1935), Josef Breitenbach’s image of singer Sarah Vaughan (1950), Dan Weiner’s photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. (1956) and Irving Penn’s image of opera icon Jessye Norman (1983).
“Let Your Motto Be Resistance” was organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery and the International Center of Photography in New York and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.
The exhibition, national tour and catalog were made possible by a generous grant from lead sponsor MetLife Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Council of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“Let Your Motto Be Resistance” is based on the exhibition of the same name that featured 100 original photographs, and was presented at the International Center of Photography (May 11 - Sept. 9, 2007) and the National Portrait Gallery (Oct. 9, 2007 – Mar. 2, 2008).