What a year! From now through January we’re publishing some stories about the biggest happenings from the 2019-2020 fiscal year. These stories and more can be found in this year’s Annual Report — download the full PDF to see more!
Commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in what became the United States, “Sisterhood: Cultural Portraits of African-American Women” highlighted both anonymous and notable women with materials drawn from holdings in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library as well as the curators’ own collections. Curated by a trio of UVA Library staff including research archivist Ervin Jordan, reference librarian Regina Rush, and former resident librarian Sony Prosper, the exhibition paid tribute to Black women as authors and artwork, educators and entertainers, fashionistas and freedom fighters, policymakers and uncrowned queens.
On display in “Sisterhood” were 70 unique artifacts and documents featuring 140 women, grouped into five thematic sections: “Artwork & Authors: Black Female Voices and Faces;” “Black UVA Women: Being First;” “Charlottesville-Albemarle Women: Groundbreakers on the Homefront;” “Fashions & Livelihoods: The Way They Wore;” and “Love, Marriage & Family: The Ties that Bind.” The broad range of materials in the exhibition included photographs, manuscripts, posters, books, album and magazine covers, and even collectibles such as dolls, statuettes, and Christmas tree ornaments.
Opening in the Small Library at the end of January, the exhibition was slated to stay up through mid-June but as UVA spaces closed in mid-March it went online, proving very popular on social media. For five weeks, staff shared posts of images and stories detailed in the exhibition. One post included a December 1970 image of one of UVA’s first black female students, with the acknowledgment that her name was unknown to Library staff. The UVA Black Alumni retweeted the post and a day later their network had identified her as Allegra McCullough, a 1972 graduate from the Curry School. The Black Alumni account also contributed an alternate name for the exhibition: #SisterhoodExhibition #BlackWomenMatter.