The Color Line – African American Art in Paris

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The whole time Alix (my homegirl I went to Europe with) and I were in Paris, we kept seeing posters like the one above.  Since it was usually in passing, the flag in the picture is what caught our eyes.  Curiosity finally got the best of us and we looked it up only to discover the signs we saw all over the city were advertising “The Color Line – African-American Artists and segregation.”  So on our last night in Paris, we made it at the last hour (literally) to check it out.

 “The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the color line.” – W.E.B. Du Bois

“The Color Line” was first seen in print in June of 1881 as the title of an article Frederick Douglass wrote for the North American Review (the first literary magazine in the US).  Its use by Du Bois in his book The Souls of Black Folk that was published in 1903 went on to give the phrase the popularity that it achieved.  This term refers to the racial segregation that took place (and still takes place) in the United States after slavery was “abolished” (I put this in quotes because there’s a little bit of fine print in the 13th amendment).

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This exhibit examined the quote above in depth through various artistic forms by African American artists.  It featured original copies of books by Booker T Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.  There were paintings, sculptures, quilts, etc.  There were multiple videos segments that included old minstrel shows depicting blackface and a documentary examining black artists.  I think it did a wonderful job of being very well rounded.  It spoke to politics, entertainment, sports, activism, and more.  Since we made it with like an hour or so before closing, we weren’t even able to see and take everything in.

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A Jacob Lawrence series

When I think of current events in this country, I feel the problem of the color line has remained a major concern in the 21st century.  When people say that “race is a big topic now,” I hear “race is a big topic to white people.”  When something becomes “mainstream,” it’s just that now white people are paying attention to it.  Black folks have always discussed race.  We have no other choice, it’s been thrown in our faces daily since we were forced to come here.   We joke about it, talk about it, cry about it, and everything in between.  This race thing ain’t new to us, we have been true to this.  Are there other major issues this country faces now?  For sure.  Especially because amerika is not as “black and white” as it used to be.  Will the color line bleed into the 22nd century?  We’d hope not but the way this country is set up…

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“Practice makes perfect!” by Oliver W. Harrington

The Color Line exhibit was featured at the musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac.  This museum is where you can find all things art and culture from indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.  Its theme is “a bridge between cultures.”  In other words, this is where they put all the things belonging to minorities that they don’t want in their other museums (I’m just saying).  The exhibition was showcased from the beginning October 2016 to mid-January of this year.  So if you missed it, sorry???  Feel free to get your fix with this post and visit my Instagram (@thediasporian) for more photos!

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“Tongues (Holy Rollers)” by Archibald J. Motley, Jr.

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