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After the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Alabama produced an impressive number of African American self-taught artists whose work particularly focused on the Civil Rights Movement and on aspects of history that led to it. This happened, in part, because the action was right on their doorsteps: Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Selma March, the murder of four little girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. It was a spontaneous response to an emerging opportunity, and it occurred all over the South.
History Refused to Die documents this phenomenon by highlighting the men and women whose artistic accomplishments deserve to be recognized by American art history, identifying six various themes that run through the works of almost all of these Alabama artists: Slavery, Agricultural and Industrial Alabama, The African-American Woman, The Civil Rights Era, Surviving Modern Times, and Autobiography and Commemoration.
Featuring the work of fourteen African American artists from Alabama, including Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Joe Minter, Ronald Lockett, Mose Tolliver, and several quilters from Gee's Bend, Alabama, this volume provides insight into black Alabama and African American visual expression through the presentation and analysis of more than 100 works of art.
William S. Arnett is an art historian, documentarian, scholar, author and editor of numerous books, including Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art, vols. I and II; The Quilts of Gee’s Bend; Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt; Gee’s Bend: The Women and Their Quilts; and Thornton Dial in the 21st Century. He has built important collections of African, Asian, and African American art, among others, and has authored and curated many catalogs and exhibitions on subjects ranging from ancient ceramics to twentieth-century Mayan textiles.
Margaret Lynne Ausfeld has served as the Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama for more than twenty years. She researches and documents the work of American and Southern artists, particularly those represented in the Museum’s collections, focusing specifically on examining the relationship of artists to their environment, and the evolution of American culture.
Hill Harper is a film, television, and stage actor, as well as a New York Times bestselling author. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University and holds graduate degrees with honors from Harvard Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. His first book, Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny, was named the 2007 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association. His latest book is Letters to an Incarcerated Brother: Encouragement, Hope, and Healing for Inmates and Their Loved Ones (2013). Harper has been awarded seven NAACP Image Awards and was recently appointed by President Obama to the President’s Cancer Panel.
Bernard Herman is the George B. Tyndall Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a founding trustee of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. He has written and lectured on the art of Thornton Dial, Ronald Lockett, Lonnie Holley, and the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend. He also teaches and writes on visual and material culture, foodways, and everyday life in the early modern Atlantic world.
Sharon P. Holland is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a Ph.D. in English and African American Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity (Duke UP, 2000), which won the Lora Romero First Book Prize from the American Studies Association in 2002. She is currently at work on a new project, Perishment, an investigation of the human/animal distinction and the place of discourse on blackness within that discussion. She is presently Associate Chair of the Department of American Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Robert Sain has held senior leadership positions in the museum world for over three decades. He became known for organizing large-scale, experimental exhibitions driven by artists’ commissions, public engagement and social responsibility. Today, as executive director of Alabama Contemporary Art Center in Mobile, Alabama, he is leading a new charge to create a beacon of contemporary art for the Gulf Coast region by inviting global talent to engage people in ideas that matter.
Diala Toure is the curator of collections at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art in Baltimore. She has served as a senior art consultant to many prestigious institutions (the Barnes Foundation, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) and has held teaching appointments at elite universities (University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, University of California at Berkeley, University of San Francisco, and University of Minnesota). Toure is the principal and chief appraiser of Appraisals of Value, LLC, a premier Baltimore corporation specializing in art valuation, art advisory and management, art acquisition and art disposition.
Karen Wilkin is a New York-based independent curator and critic specializing in twentieth-century Modernism. Educated at Barnard College and Columbia University, she is the author of monographs on Stuart Davis, David Smith, Anthony Caro, Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler, Giorgio Morandi, and Hans Hofmann, among others, and has organized exhibitions of their work internationally. The Contributing Editor for Art for the Hudson Review and a regular contributor to the New Criterion and the Wall Street Journal, she teaches in the New York Studio School’s MFA program.
Horace Randall Williams is an Alabama native and the editor of Montgomery-based NewSouth Books. He is the author of five books and has edited and published more than 500 others, mostly on Southern history and culture. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist and the founding director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch Project.