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School Spirit: Art and HBCUs


Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson, 1893.

Courtesy of Hampton University Museum, Virginia, 2016.


Writing for Artforum, Jessica Lynne focuses a lens on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBUCs) and their vast collections and distributions of Black fine art over the last two centuries. Lynne recognizes Hampton University Museum as the first collecting institution devoted to Black fine art and emphasizes the need to "recognize HBCUs and their museums, galleries, and art and art-history programs when tracing the lineage of Black cultural institutionality."In a time when mainstream movements like BLM (Black Lives Matter) are calling for efforts to reform Black people's positions in American society, Lynne encourages institutions to take a look at HBCUs as a sound infrastructure. Much like the young boy in Ossawa's painting learns from his elder, the author encourages us to lean into the knowledge housed by these historic art institutions.


“What I did know was that this was a painting by a Black person in a museum full of works by other Black artists on the campus of a historically Black college, and that for me, as a young Black person, this was a special combination of circumstances." -Jessica Lynne

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