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Reflections in Black: Art and Activism—
African-American Photography from the Smithsonian Collection
September 26 through December 7, 2003

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (8-7-03) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will present Reflections in Black: Art and Activism—African-American Photography from the Smithsonian Institution , which will be on display from September 26 through December 7, 2003.

The groundbreaking exhibition—which comprises more than 130 images from the civil rights era to the present—explores how African-American photographers were instrumental in motivating cultural change. During this period, according to organizers, many African-American photographers began to view the American Civil Rights movement as part of a larger and older struggle for independence and equal rights.

“The McMullen Museum is pleased to offer the New England audience the opportunity to see these important, largely unknown, photographs collected by the Smithsonian Institution,” said McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “The works have been selected with great discernment by Professor Deborah Willis.

“As a group, Netzer added, “the photographs, accompanied by text written by Boston College faculty from various disciplines, shed new light on one of the most significant social and political movements in our nation’s history.”

[MEDIA NOTE: Images from the exhibition are available upon request from the McMullen Museum: call Naomi Blumberg at (617) 552-4676. A complete list of works also is available.]

Marches, meetings, rallies—and leading figures such as Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver—are documented through the eyes of leading photojournalists including Moneta Sleet Jr., Jack T. Franklin, Chuck Stewart, Milton J. Hinton, Robert Haggins, Jonathan Eubanks, Fern Logan, Ernest Withers and Hank Sloane Thomas. As a group these works define the significance of the beginnings of the Civil Rights and black power movements in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

These decades were marked by new artistic approaches to photography. Moving beyond the traditional goal of objective reportage, some photographers in this exhibition use the power of narrative and metaphor to expand the awareness of the public and to combat negative stereotyping found in mainstream media culture. The exhibition reveals how many photographers sought to be “graphic historians,” creating a collective biography of African-American people that would empower them in their struggle for civil rights, while at the same time providing evidence of the diversity of their individual histories, values and goals.

Opening Event

The public is invited to attend an opening reception at the McMullen Museum on Wednesday, October 1 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Exhibition Organizers

Curated by Deborah Willis, Reflections in Black: Art and Activism—African-American Photography from the Smithsonian Institution is organized by the Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, and is circulated by Curatorial Assistance, Pasadena, California.

This presentation and accompanying texts were conceived by the McMullen Museum of Art and faculty from the following departments: Black Studies, English, Fine Arts, History, Music, Political Science, Sociology and Theology; as well as from BC’s Lynch School of Education and Law School.

Accompanying Programs

In conjunction with the exhibition, the following public programs will be offered. For more information, visit the McMullen Museum web site at

A lecture by Deborah Willis (Professor of Photography, New York University), on “Imaging Black Culture”; Tuesday, October 28, 4:30 p.m., in Devlin Hall room 008.

On October 17 and 18, 2003, BC’s Lynch School of Education will hold its 3rd Annual Diversity Challenge Conference.

Through October 10, 2003, BC’s Law Library hosts The Long Road to Justice: The African American Experience in the Massachusetts Courts—a traveling exhibit which has been on display since June 1, 2003.

A Film Series will be held on the following Thursdays at 7 p.m. in Devlin Hall,
room 026:

October 2: (double feature) Skin Deep (1999) and South Africa: Beyond a Miracle (2001; co-produced by BC Fine Arts Professor and filmmaker John Michalczyk)
October 9: Eyes on the Prize (one episode)
October 16: Four Little Girls (directed by Spike Lee)

McMullen Museum

The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the display and scholarship of the works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational resource for all of New England as well as the national and the international community. The Museum displays its notable permanent collection and mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art.
The Charles S. and Isabella V. McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 in honor of the late parents of Boston College benefactor, trustee and art collector John J. McMullen. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, the Museum’s exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs.

The 2003-04 academic year marks the 10th anniversary of the formal reopening of the Museum.

McMullen Museum Hours and Tours
Admission to the McMullen Museum is free; it is handicapped accessible and open to the public. The Museum is located in Devlin Hall on the Chestnut Hill campus of Boston College, at 140 Commonwealth Avenue.

From September through May, the McMullen Museum hours are as follows: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The Museum will be closed on Monday, October 13 and on Thursday and Friday, November 27 and 28. No parking will be available on the following Saturdays: September 27, October 25, November 1 and November 8, 2003.

Gallery tours of the exhibition will be given by Museum docents on Fridays at 12:30 p.m. Group tours may be arranged upon request, by calling (617) 552-8587 or via the McMullen Museum web site. For directions, parking and additional information, visit the web site at or call (617) 552-8100.

McMullen Museum
Boston College
140 Commonwealth
Devlin Hall 108
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

For more information, call (617) 552-8587, or go to

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