Toward an African Methodist Episcopal Aesthetic Idyll: Art and Images at Wilberforce University, 1863–1914

Event Date: 
Tue Oct 5, 2021 5:00pm - 6:00pm
Event Location: 
Online via Zoom
Event Cost: 

Free-- registration required.

Presented by Melanee Harvey, assistant professor & coordinator of art history at Howard University. Kate Clarke Lemay, acting senior historian and interim director of PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery's Scholarly Center, will moderate the Q & A.

As the first independent African American religious denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church maintains a historic position as one of the oldest surviving African American institutions. Through the use and circulation of visual culture, the AME denomination established a cultural base of Black Formalist sensibilities rooted in uplift and cultural definition.

This presentation will examine how art and strategies of visual representation were used to present Wilberforce University, one of the nation’s first historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), as an aesthetic idyll shaped by Bishop Daniel Payne and other AME bishops of the late nineteenth century. Denominational leadership marshalled images of the AME’s flagship educational institution as evidence of racial advancement. Specifically, photographs displayed at national expositions and published in the Christian Recorder promoted their message. This analysis will also consider the role of art collections and art education at Wilberforce University.

This program is part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture Conversation Series sponsored by Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center. Free—Registration required.