2/16/24 - 7/14/24

Sadie Barnette
Alfred Conteh
Maya Freelon
Hugh Hayden
Letitia Huckaby
Jeffrey Meris
Sable Elyse Smith

Maggie Adler, Curator of Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Maurita N. Poole, PhD, Executive Director of the Newcomb Art Museum

Conceived as a commemoration of the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation visualizes what freedom looks like for Black Americans today and the legacy of the Civil War today and beyond. Highlighting the perspectives of contemporary Black artists, Emancipation features commissioned and recent works by Sadie Barnette, Alfred Conteh, Maya Freelon, Hugh Hayden, Letitia Huckaby, Jeffrey Meris, and Sable Elyse Smith. The seven installations span sculpture, photography, and paper and textile fabrications.

The artists responded to John Quincy Adams Ward’s bronze sculpture The Freedman (1863) from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s collection. Initially sculpted by Ward before the end of the Civil War, the figure is depicted on the cusp of liberation, having ruptured his bonds, though they are still present as a reminder of his enslavement. It is one of the first American depictions of a Black figure cast in bronze, and this specific cast from 1863 is the only copy of its kind with a key that releases a shackle from the figure’s wrist. Supplemented by loans of Civil War materials from national and local institutions and historically relevant objects from WCMA’s collection that further enhance our understanding of past representations of Blackness, Emancipation demonstrates how historical art collections can serve as a resource and inspiration for contemporary artistic practices.

Click here to look at the a series of StoryMaps, online multimedia stories with interactive elements that encourage viewers to explore art in more detail.

Browse the installation:

News & Press

Don Stewart, What does freedom look like today? 7 Black American artists interpret the meaning of emancipation, The Greenfield Recorder, March 29, 2024

Charles Giuliano, Visual Arts Review: Various Views of “Emancipation,” The Arts Fuse, March 12, 2024

Aluna Brogdon, ‘Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation’ opens at WCMA, The Williams Record, February 28, 2024

Monte Belmonte and Kaliis Smith, The freedom of overlap and Emancipation welcomes you, The Fabulous 413 on NEPM, February 27 and 28, 2024

Brittany Polito, Williams College Art Museum Debuts Emancipation Exhibit, iBerkshires.com, February 26, 2024

Kate Abbott, WCMA maps the Unfinished Project of Liberation, By the Way Berkshires, February 21, 2024

Breanna Steele, Emancipation art exhibition going on display at Williams College Museum of Art, Spectrum News 1, February 12, 2024