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How Black Artists Fought Exclusion in Museums


Harlem on My Mind by Reginald Gammon, © Reginald Gammon / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, via Artstor.

In 1969, in the wake of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's “Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900–68," Harlem-based Black artists objected to the ways in which the art world had neglected them. As such, a group of artists organized to create the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC.) In this recent article for JSTOR Daily, art historian Madeleine Compagnon chronicles how this collective of 75 artists responded to the exclusion of art, made by Black artists, from that major exhibition.

“The BECC saw that the need for cultural expression and understanding could not wait for or depend upon established art institutions to open their gates. Their fight for Black self-representation, visibility, and recognition in the mainstream art world, Cooks concludes, played a crucial role in exposing the larger national need for cultural recognition, understanding, and respect.”