On Fertile Ground: NBAF at 30

From the beginning, the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) has sought to capture the history, beauty, reverence, and inspiration of African American and African diasporic history and culture through the arts. Central to its evolution has been the cultivation of local artists, patrons, and community leaders, all of who believe in the mission of NBAF to “advance the arts and the contributions of artists of African descent.” Attracting both emerging and master artists of African descent from throughout the world, the “rich and varied forms…[of] creative expressions” are celebrated and praised as essential to our collective identity. However, to fully grasp the importance of NBAF to Atlanta and to the world, it is necessary to reflect on how far we have come as an institution in an effort to account for and understand our purpose and potential.


In this exhibition, McDaniels' work centers around understanding the complexities of identity construction for people of African descent throughout American history, especially African American males. Composed of works on paper and wood using acrylic paint, fabric, glue, paper, and oil stick, this exhibition reflects the artist's thinking from the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 to the Charlottesville protest in the summer of 2017. Black: Towards an Afro-Cosmological Understanding is McDaniels attempt to decouple blackness from whiteness while simultaneously creating empowering imagery associated with the African continent in an effort to render European and American ideas about race powerless.  Curated by Leatrice Ellzy Wright.

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A Question of Manhood: African Americans and World War I

Most Americans know little of the global significance of World War I (1914-1918) and the sacrifices made by millions to ensure the victory of the Allied forces over Germany. Rarer still is a basic understanding of the critical role of African Americans in the war to make the "world safe for democracy."

McDaniels' A Question of Manhood: African Americans and WWI exhibit commemorates the centennial of the First World War, and celebrates African Americans who served as citizen-soldiers while they were still systematically denied full access to the promises of democracy.

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Additional Information

Curated by Pellom McDaniels, III, Still Raising Hell exhibition reflects the revolutionary thinking and revolutionary actions of Camille Billops and James V. Hatch.  This dynamic couple’s commitment to speaking truth to power and exploring the meaning and purpose of African American art was incredible. On display from September 15, 2016 through May 28, 2017, the exhibition and accompanying public programs provoked thought and spark dialogue in the spirit of Billops and Hatch.

Online Exhibit

The Still Raising Hell exhibition has been preserved as an online experience.  Please follow this link to the interactive content, which includes videos, photographs, and ephemera related to the Camille Billops and James V. Hatch archives in the Stuart A. Rose Library at Emory University.


Othello: The Moor Speaks

One of Shakespeare's most important works, Othello provides commentary on the “rise of colonialism and imperialism,” as well as the ongoing struggle to define the qualities related to quintessential manhood and masculinity. Through the archival materials found in the Stuart A. Rose Library, this exhibition will explore the development of the play as a vehicle for African American actors such as Ira Aldridge, Paul Robeson, and Laurence Fishburne to claim the role of the “Black Moor” from white men in black face. Through the exhibition and programming, we will explore the complexity of being a black man in a white world, and the meanings associated with Shakespeare's provocative representation of race and racism.

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McDaniels researched and wrote the script for this traveling exhibit that tells the story of how athletes have used their celebrity to fight for social change. It includes interactive displays that show how some of history’s super athletes like Muhammad Ali, Martina Navratilova, Jesse Owens and Terry Fox scaled to the heights of sports by defying expectations and restrictions levied by governments, advertisers, and spectators alike. In doing so, they became potent symbols that helped drive movements that changed sports and society.

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They Came to Fight: African Americans and the Great World War

This exhibition serves as an account of the intersecting historical, social, political and economic contexts that African Americans found themselves in leading up to World War I.  As soldiers, administrators, officers and volunteers in the defense of the United States and its claims to democracy, African Americans served with pride.  What is more, this exhibition accounts for the contribution that black Kansas Citians made to the outcome of the Great World War.   Indeed, these men and women served with honor and purpose to achieve the designated outcomes that their country sought to secure, and in doing so claimed the citizenship of an entire race.

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