1969 - In a controversial show, this photographer revealed middle-class Harlem to the wider world
In 1969, the Metropolitan Museum of Art made waves with the controversial exhibition, Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900–1968. Instead of paintings and sculpture from the storied hotbed of African American culture and creativity, it featured photographs—at the time a medium not yet embraced by the art establishment—of the neighborhood’s cultural and social life. The immersive installation was like an uptown Family of Man, and it drew record crowds to the museum. And while it incited a picket line of protesters disparaging the show as a culturally patronizing and racist white man’s view of Harlem, it was also unprecedented for its depiction of African American culture on a grand scale. Deborah Willis, author of Picturing Us: African American Identity in Photography, recalls seeing Harlem on My Mind as a budding artist and scholar of photography.
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