Students enrolled in my “Gender, Race and Urban Space” course made their way over to the Mary Harmon Bryant building on our campus to see the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art. They are curating an exhibit for the University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences’ newly designated Paul R. Jones Museum in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Indeed, they are engaging course content while learning how to see images as text. PRJ Collection Manager Emily C. Bibb is guiding our process.
The late Paul Jones, an African American man, was denied entry at UA only to later receive an honorary degree from UA’s law school. His collection includes work from renowned artists like James Van Der Zee and Romare Bearden.
Most of the artists in the collection are people of African descent. Almost all of the art invites deep thought about black life.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/81035400″>Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at the University of Alabama</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/etech”>UA College of Arts & Sciences</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
I look forward to working with the students and Bibb.
Before walking across campus to see the images in a building that holds many of the University’s special collections, we explored perceptions concerning black life in urban spaces via historian Gilbert Osofsky’s 1968 article on Harlem as an “enduring ghetto” and short excerpts from the work of, among others, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts’ Harlem is Nowhere and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. We pondered long-held ideas about black life, definitions of blackness, migration to Harlem, the so-called black mecca, and the meaning of space. For the exhibit, we are tentatively exploring the degree to which Atlanta and Harlem really are black meccas. To be clear, today’s readings and next week’s readings included attention to a so-called reverse migration of people of African descent from New York to the South. As I told my students, I have several African American friends who have left the Big Apple since late last century for southern cities, among them Charlotte, Greensboro, Atlanta, and Miami.
Next week, we turn to Maurice Hobson’s newly released The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta (University of North Carolina Press).
The planned exhibit opens March 2 and will run through April 27 in the museum at 2308 Sixth Street, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.