I Dream a World: Selections From Brian Lanker’s Portraits of Remarkable Black Women

Part 1:
July 8, 2022 - January 29, 2023

The photographer Brian Lanker possesses an acute eye and a brave heart. He has discovered women whose images show us the high cost of living and the rich reward of thriving.
                                                                                                                                                —Maya Angelou, 1989

Since the publication of I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America over thirty years ago, African American women have gained greater visibility on the national stage and in the global arena. Yet the book’s seventy-five photographs and interviews have never seemed more relevant. Illuminating the historical and cultural contributions of several remarkable individuals, this two-part exhibition features portraits of writers, entertainers, athletes, activists, and politicians, whose legacies were documented by the photojournalist Brian Lanker in the late 1980s. “I felt the need to prevent these historical lives from being forgotten,” he wrote. “Many of the women opened ‘the doors’ and many advanced America through the modern civil rights and women’s movement."

Each of the subjects in I Dream a World overcame tremendous adversity. Their personal challenges, powerful journeys, and unwavering persistence offer inspiration for us all. While penning the foreword for the book, Maya Angelou observed, “These women regard us, understand us, gaze through each of us, into a beyond. . . . The sameness of their gaze informs us that they will not be removed, that indeed although they are shaken, bruised, and uprooted, they are determined to remain."

Brian Lanker’s I Dream a World series was a partial gift of Lynda Lanker and a museum purchase made possible with generous support from Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, Agnes Gund, Kate Kelly and George Schweitzer, Lyndon J. Barrois Sr. and Janine Sherman Barrois, and Mark and Cindy Aron.

This presentation of I Dream a World was made possible in part through generous support from Accenture. The exhibition also received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Part I of “I Dream a World: Selections from Brian Lanker's Portraits of Remarkable Black Women” will be on view July 8, 2022, through Jan. 29, 2023, and Part II will be on view Feb. 10, 2023, through Sept. 10, 2023. 


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