April 22 – June 14, 2019
East Building, Ground Level – Study Center
This exhibition is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. It is not open on Sundays.
“I hope that in some small way my collecting will encourage others to do the same, and to recognize the importance of preserving our cultural heritage, providing a legacy for those who come after us.”
– Dr. Walter O. Evans
Walter O. Evans has spent decades collecting, curating, and conserving a wide variety of African American art, music, and literature in an effort to preserve the cultural history of African Americans. His home in Savannah, Georgia, is a repository of the artworks and papers of many important figures, and increasingly has become a destination for scholars. Part of his collection focuses on the nineteenth-century slave, abolitionist, and statesman Frederick Douglass (c. 1818–1895). In addition to inscribed books from Douglass’s and his descendants’ libraries and printed editions of his speeches, the collection contains letters, manuscripts, photographs, and scrapbooks. While some of this material relates directly to Douglass’s speeches and work promoting the cause of black freedom and equality, much of the material is of a more personal nature: correspondence between family members, family histories, and scrapbooks compiled by Douglass and his sons Lewis Henry, Charles Remond, and Frederick Douglass Jr. This family history provides a new lens through which to view the near-mythical orator. In addition to containing news clippings from many nineteenth-century African American newspapers that do not survive in other archives today, the scrapbooks, with their personal documents and familial relationships, illuminate Frederick Douglass in ways never before seen.
In 2018 Celeste-Marie Bernier and Andrew Taylor of the University of Edinburgh published If I Survive: Frederick Douglass and Family in the Walter O. Evans Collection, a guide to the collection born of a longstanding collaboration between the authors and Dr. Evans. Within its pages they have reproduced letters, manuscripts, and photographs from the collection along with transcriptions and commentary that provide an invaluable resource for Douglass scholars. The National Gallery of Art Library mounts this special-focus exhibition in conjunction with a lecture by Professor Bernier on Friday, April 26, 2019. Selections from the Walter O. Evans Collection include a majority of the family scrapbooks, photographic portraits of several members of the Douglass family, pamphlet editions and manuscript copies of several of Douglass’s speeches, letters to and from Douglass concerning various family members, and other related ephemera.
Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington
Passes: Admission is always free and passes are not required