Thoughts on why the carousel panel belongs in the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Thoughts on why the carousel panel belongs in the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

MAG Director Jonathon Binestock (left) and David Kramer

• August 28, 2015

Yesterday, having written on the Charlotte Carousel, this evening at Thursdays at the MAG, I looked more closely at the museum’s artwork by and about African-Americans.

democratandchronicle.com/story/opinion/blogs/editorial/2015/08/26/on-the-jim-crow-museum-museum-of-racist-memorabilia-and-the-charlotte-carousel/32394259/

MAG Director Jonathon Binestock kindly explicated several exquisite pieces for me:

The works of art in our collection by or featuring African Americans are truly exceptional. Tonight we’re opening a reinstallation of our modern and contemporary art galleries.

Here, in our Forman Gallery, is a stunning portrait of artist Mickalene Thomas’ favorite subject model, a woman named Qusuquzah. She glitters with rhinestones and other rich embellishments. Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of a young man from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, shows him nobly in the context of an Old Master painting format. Another work I love is Beauford Delaney’s portrait of Charlie Parker, arguably the most important and influential jazz musician of the 20thcentury. Delaney himself was a master, and this is an outstanding example of his work, which shows Parker glowing in celestial, transcendental, yellow light.

jon 2

Robert Lee McCameron’s (1866 – 1912) New Orleans Man, same time period as the carousel panel

My renewed appreciation of this art–both revealing and making more complex our understanding of the African-American experience–reinforced what I wrote yesterday. If the pedestrian and offensive caricatures on the carousel are to go to a museum, (I am not entirely against keeping the panel with an explanatory plaque) it should be the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.

The Jim Crow Museum‘s mission is to provide a rich historical context for illuminating such markers of race, past and present. The MAG–while hardly presenting its art ahistorically–is ill suited to display the panel which would only be a curious anomaly. The MAG‘s mission is to show the best, brightest and sometimes darkest creations of the human imagination — not a common work of Americana little more than a product of its times.

jon 3The rest of the evening, as always at the MAG, was delightful. Several hundred people strolled the foray and galleries, enjoying the opening of Jacob Lawrence:The Legend of John Brown Portfolio. The jazz was soft; the H’ourdouvers ourdourvery; the conversation lilting; the ladies fair and the gentlemen gallant. The summer of love in Rochester not yet over.

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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