Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Exhibit Showcases African-American Celebration

Christian Mayr, Kitchen Ball at White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, 1838Courtesy North Carolina Museum of Art

The Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum in Washington DC presents the exhibit "Jubilee", curated by Portia James. The exhibit's open house was Tuesday, December 9 for the press to view the exhibit and ask James questions.

"Jubilee" examines historical and contemporary African American holidays and celebrations from around the country. More than 50 holidays, celebratory traditions and occasions are presented in a season-based journey through a calendar year. Observances profiled include those no longer existing, ones created in response to significant events (such as Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation), regional favorites and black traditions associated with mainstream holidays. Also covered are leisure-time activities, college and church homecomings, black Greek organizations' events, family reunions and recent holidays like Kwanzaa and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

James discussed the history of these celebrations highlighting little-known facts and folklore presented in the exhibition through photographs, artifacts, costumes, documents, music, video and interviews. Among the exhibition features are the 1800s' wedding dress of an enslaved African woman, an interview with Congressman John Conyers on the King Holiday and the 1897 bronze studies for sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens' tribute to Robert Gould Shaw and the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry of the Union Army.

Peter Robinson, Jr loaned military artifacts from his father, a World War I veteran and the son of enslaved Africans. He discussed the special significance of Veterans Day to African Americans.

Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Place SE

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