African American History · art

on phoebe and beyond


This arrived in the mail last week. It’s a booklet for a retrospective show featuring the work of Phoebe Beasley. The Ohio-born artist was a guest of the University of Alabama three years ago. As the note accompanying the booklet explains, the cover and back cover art represents her stepmother’s graduating class. It is entitled “Class of ’33.” That would be Class of ’33 as in Wilberforce University, the country’s first historically black college. My own research has revealed that a good many of those graduates before and after the Civil War were biracial descendants of people from the South.


Phoebe is always so generous. Shortly after her visit here, she shared prints of her work with my husband and I. We have since then remained in touch. She also shared the catalog with colleague Stacy Morgan in UA’s American Studies whose area of expertise includes art and folk art in contemporary America.


We are grateful to Stacy for always introducing us to wonderful artists who are still living. He has a show at UA’s Paul R. Jones Museum featuring work curated by his graduate students. I plan to go down there soon.

In the meantime, I will be enjoying Phoebe’s catalog and share news of the show with friends who live on the west coast.

As I enjoy the summer, I will do so while also watching The Chi, my favorite television show, which airs on Sunday evenings and unveils the backstories of many people living on Chicago’s South Side. I appreciated seeing a cameo of the award-winning playwright Lorraine Hansberry on the side of a building last night via the show.

See Lorraine above.

And the gorgeous painting on a wall behind Kevin (Miami’s Alex Hibbert) and Papa, two of my favorite young characters, too.


I am still laughing at the scene featuring the baby mamas drinking tea. Or was it fancy coffee? Either way, Emmett, you’re in trouble!


I wish I could build an entire course around this show. It touches on so many pertinent issues addressed in class. Let me think about this.

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