April 13, 2018 - Vol. 1, Issue 28
Decolonizing the American Art Museum
Above: Masterpieces of African Art exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, 1954-1955. 1
Alain LeRoy Locke 2
David Driskell
Joan Sandler
Recently, the Brooklyn Museum defended its hiring in late March of a white consulting curator of African art. 3 The decision disturbed many activists, including the group Decolonize This Place who underscored the irony of the contract.

The fields of African studies and African art history share roots of “white academic domination,” which was addressed by 20th century intellectuals like John Henrik Clarke; 4 and Alain LeRoy Locke, whom Richard Long identified as “the father of African art studies in the United States.” 5 [THMDA Richard Long 1.3.4] . In 1924, Locke wrote of the need for more black African art historians: “Having passed through a period of neglect and disesteem during which it was regarded as crude, bizarre, and primitive, African art is now in danger of another sort of misconstruction, that of being taken up as an exotic fad and a fashionable amateurish interest.” 6 Artist and scholar David Driskell pointed out Locke’s concerns, and said of white instructors: “ There was something about the sensitivity of the subject that was difficult for them to put their hands on, and really relate it to a majority black audience, the way perhaps a black professor could.” 7 [THMDA David Driskell 1.5.3] . In that regard, a question remains as to whether degrees actually bestow qualification.

A 2015 national survey by the Mellon Foundation found that “white staff continue to dominate the job categories most closely associated with the intellectual and educational mission of museums,” including curatorial positions. 8 Like in African studies and African art history, minority representation in cultural institutions remains wanting. This issue was addressed by curator Howardena Pindell 9 ; and Joan Sandler , who served as the community education director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1980s. During this period, Sandler studied the needs of American art museum professionals of color. She said of her findings: “Art museums are the hardest places to work in--the being accepted and considered on par as your white counterpart, even if you might come in with all the degrees and everything. Art museums adjusted poorly and slowly to the changing population.” 10 [THMDA Joan Sandler 1.4.3] .
For our subscribing institutions, check out our curated playlist of stories that accompanies the above feature. To do so, copy and paste the below URL to the tail end of your university’s specific URL for The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. For example: [Your Institution URL] + [Playlist Tail]

Playlist Tail: /stories/6;IDList=17625%2C531197%2C8459%2C14773%2C358316%2C521530%2C659189%2C467650%2C373389%2C373388%2C245016%2C16964%2C16963%2C16952%2C16951%2C68486%2C66991;ListTitle=Decolonizing%20the%20American%20Art%20Museum

The Musicality of Dr. Olly Wilson 11
Last month, music professor and composer Dr. Olly Wilson passed away at the age of eighty. Wilson served for over thirty years on the music department faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where he retired in 2002. Cetus , Hold On and In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr. were only a few of his numerous compositions.

In his interview, Wilson described his musical philosophy, whereby oral and literary traditions served as a “backdrop” to his art: “I believe fundamentally that music is a kind of expression of experience consciously transformed. So you transform your experience by reproducing aspects of that, by shaping a media…and if that experience has been one of a double consciousness, then you use all of that. That is, as an African American, as Ralph Ellison says, you certainly are American, but you also are American with a particular viewpoint that is the result of your experience; and your experience includes a lot of conscious as well as unconscious things. And as an artist…you call upon that as you present what you do.” 11 [THMDA Olly Wilson 1.5.1] .
Please share with us your stories of how you incorporate The HistoryMakers Digital Archive into your curriculum and research. We'd love to hear from you!

This week, 17 new interviews were added to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive:

Violet Palmer

Basketball referee Violet Palmer (1964 - ) was the first woman and first openly gay official in the NBA.

The Honorable Glenda Hatchett

Judge The Honorable Glenda Hatchett (1951 - ) became the first African American chief judge of a state court when she was appointed to the Fulton County Juvenile Court in 1991. She starred in the Judge Hatchett television show, and founded The Hatchett Firm in 2014.
Philip Merrill

Historical researcher Philip Merrill (1962 - ) founded Nanny Jack & Company, where he collected and researched African American memorabilia for over twenty years. He was also the author of The Art of Collecting Black Memorabilia and The Black America Series: Baltimore .
Merline Pitre

Historian and educator Merline Pitre (1943 - ) was a history professor and dean at Texas Southern University. She authored Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares and In Struggle against Jim Crow , and became the Texas State Historical Association’s first African American president in 2011.
Denise Bradley-Tyson

Marketing executive Denise Bradley-Tyson (1958 - ) was the founding director of the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, California. She developed the merchandising strategy for Space Jam and the marketing campaign for Africa 05.
Henry W. McGee

Broadcast chief executive and business professor Henry W. McGee (1953 - ) was the president of HBO, where he worked for over thirty-five years before becoming a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School.
Margot Copeland

Corporate executive Margot Copeland (1951 - ) served as the executive vice president of diversity at KeyCorp from 2001. She was also national president of The Links, Incorporated.
Edward Lewis

Magazine publishing chief executive and entrepreneur Edward Lewis (1940 - ) cofounded Essence Communications, Inc., where he served as the CEO and publisher of Essence magazine.

Ricki Fairley

Marketing executive Ricki Fairley (1956 - ) was the founder of DOVE Marketing Inc., and worked as a brand manager and senior marketing executive at top corporations for over thirty years.
Roy Johnson

Journalist Roy Johnson (1956 - ) was the founding editor of Savoy magazine, and held senior editorial positions at Sports Illustrated and Fortune. He co-authored three books: Magic's Touch , Outrageous! , and Aspire Higher .
Carolyn Glenn

Publisher Carolyn Glenn (1947 - ) founded Georgia’s largest African American-owned newspaper, The Champion, which became the state's most award-winning weekly publication.
Michaela Angela Davis

Magazine editor, activist, and writer Michaela Angela Davis (1964 - ) was the founding fashion director of Vibe magazine and a former editor of Honey and Essence magazines.
Sidmel Estes

Media consultant and television producer Sidmel Estes (1954 - 2015 ) was the founder and CEO of BreakThrough Inc. and the first woman president of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Andrea Roane

Broadcast journalist Andrea Roane (1949 - ) served as a news anchor on WUSA-TV Channel 9 in Washington, D.C.
Geoff Brown

Journalist Geoff Brown (1952 - ) was a managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, where he worked for over thirty years.

Rachel Swarns

Newspaper reporter Rachel Swarns (1967 - ) was the author of American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama. Swarns also served as a reporter and columnist for The New York Times for twenty years.
Larry Ridley

Jazz bassist and music professor Larry Ridley (1937 - ) was a professor of music at Rutgers University from 1971 to 1999, and played with jazz legends such as Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.
1. BANNER PHOTO: Masterpieces of African Art exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, October 21, 1954 through January 2, 1955. Accessed April 12, 2018. .
3. Salam, Maya. “Brooklyn Museum Defends Its Hiring of a White Curator of African Art.” The New York Times. April 6, 2018. Accessed April 13, 2018. .
4. Clarke, John Henrik. “The Fight To Reclaim African History.” Black World/Negro Digest, February 1970.
5. Richard Long (The HistoryMakers A2002.021), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, March 15, 2002, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 4, Richard Long discusses Hampton's collection of African art.
6. Locke, Alain. “Note on African Art” (1924) in Primitivism and Twentieth-Century Art: A Documentary History . Jack Flam and Miriam Deutch (Eds.). University of California Press, 2003.
7. David Driskell (The HistoryMakers A2001.022), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, June 23, 2001, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 3, David Driskell talks about black arts education at various universities.
8. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey . July 28, 2015. Accessed April 11, 2018. .
9. Howardena Pindell (The HistoryMakers A2007.002), interviewed by Denise Gines, January 5, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 5, Howardena Pindell remembers being a black, female curator in late 1960s.
10. Joan Sandler (The HistoryMakers A2005.035), interviewed by Racine Tucker Hamilton, February 2, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 3, Joan Sandler talks about working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York.
12. Olly Wilson (The HistoryMakers A2005.243), interviewed by Loretta Henry, October 14, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 1, Olly Wilson describes his musical influences, pt. 2.
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