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“The way we organized the exhibition was to look at a chronology of African-American culture and history, and identified books that focused on certain historical time periods, events, and specific people,” Shaiman said.
He and the team that worked on the exhibition originally identified about 600 books to consider for the exhibition, which represented about 14,000 possible works of art.
“We felt that because this is an art exhibit, the artwork needed to come from the visualization of African-American illustrators, and as often as we could, books that were written by African Americans,” said Shaiman.
Works in the exhibition address chronological and historical topics such as slavery, the Underground Railroad with figures like Harriet Tubman, the Civil War and its aftermath, segregation, the civil rights era, and more.
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“But we don’t want to focus that this is all about doom and gloom of the history of African Americans. There’s a lot of attention to the great things that African Americans have done to offer a diverse American identity. It looks at people like Rosa Parks and Dr. King. It looks at people that were involved in innovations…” Shaiman said.
There are works of art featuring Congressman John Lewis from his youth, and other works about Satchel Paige, Dizzy Gillespie, Muhammad Ali, Billie Holiday and many more. There’s even a work pertaining to Oprah Winfrey when she was a child.
The earliest book in the exhibition, “Stevie,” written and illustrated by John Steptoe, was published in 1969.
“It really represents the first book written or illustrated by an African American on an African-American theme that garnered any attention within mainstream publishing and readership,” Shaiman said.
“Telling A People’s Story: African-American Children’s Illustrated Literature” will be on display through Saturday, June 30.
“This is the first time any museum has ever attempted an exhibition of this nature. No one else has ventured to create an exhibit focused on African-American identity using children’s literature and the pictures. My colleagues and I, and everyone who worked on this realized that this is groundbreaking, and it’s so important, especially today,” Shaiman said.
WANT TO GO?
What: "Telling A People's Story: African-American Children's Illustrated Literature"
When: Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. The exhibition will be on display through Saturday, June 30. Closed on Sundays, Mondays and University holidays.
Where: Miami University Art Museum and Sculpture Park, 801 S. Patterson Ave., Oxford.
Admission: Free and open to the public. Parking passes are available at the museum.
More info: (513) 529-2232 or www.MiamiOH.edu/ArtMuseum