Exhibition: “Sisterhood: Cultural Portraits of African-American Women” in the Small Special Collections Library

“Sisterhood: Cultural Portraits of African-American Women,” is a 2020 Black History Month original exhibition on the 400-year redemptive odyssey of African-American womanhood, 1700s-2000s. From auction blocks to corporate boardrooms, this distinctive exhibition emphasizes the commonality of their praiseworthy lives and the events they shaped in five thematic sections: “Artwork & Authors,” “Black UVA Women,” “Charlottesville-Albemarle Women,” “Fashions & Livelihoods,” and “Love, Marriage & Family.”

Historically marginalized by race and gender, Black women have experienced unique triumphs and heartbreaks as sisters and daughters, godmothers and grandmothers, mothers and wives, such as an anonymous Virginia slave woman sold from her husband: “My heart was a’most broke.” And yet these sheroes (heroines) survived and thrived with defiant dignity as eloquently personified by ex-slave and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth: “I am a self-made woman.”

“Sisterhood” will be on display through June 13, 2020 in the First Floor Gallery of the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, Mondays-Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturdays, 1:00-5:00 p.m., closed Sundays.

Sisterhood highlights the stories and faces of anonymous and notable women and commemorates their contributions and vibrant heritage as sheroes (heroines) and cultural icons in the making of America. The exhibition will be on display through June 14, 2020 in the First Floor Gallery in Harrison/Small.

Throughout their experience Black women have developed styles that affirm their lives. The styles have been a way to embody culture and express culture through sensory experiences such as fashion, dance, music, literature, and visual media. From advertising broadsides to photographs to album covers, Black women have left behind evidence of their hopes, hurdles, and the ways in which they have tried to make a way out of no way.

For over two centuries Black women have created and have been the subjects of remarkable works. From autobiographies to magazines, their works have addressed culture, enslavement, racism, and inequality. They have been subjects of artworks and craftworks as well, ranging from collectibles commemorating prominent historical figures to original masks, sculptures and jewelry depicting women of the African diaspora.

Highlighted in this section are local African-American women who courageously by-passed the sidelines and forged ahead to effect change in education, politics, and civil rights. Among those featured are civil rights activist and educator Florence Bryant, the only African American teacher in the Charlottesville School system when it was integrated in 1965, Nikuyah Walker, the first female African American mayor of Charlottesville (2018), and Mary Anne Rush, a 1920s domestic worker from southern Albemarle County, who, like countless other women, had to make the heart-wrenching decision to leave her children with family and seek employment elsewhere.

Comments are closed.