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8 Textile Artists Weave a Narrative of Racial Injustice

'The Fabric of Emancipation' exhibit focuses the craft of textile art to stitch a deeper conversation.
June 26, 2016, 11:40am
Be/Coming, Lashawnda Crowe Storm, mixed media, 9' x 9'. Photographs courtesy Burroughs Lamar. Images courtesy the artists and Harlem Needle Arts

Inside the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a historic house museum and Manhattan’s oldest residence, an exhibit, entitled The Fabric of Emancipation, addresses a history of injustice against African Americans. Previously, the mansion was the home of Aaron Burr, and was partially acquired by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Harlem Needle Arts, who organized the exhibit, represents some of the country’s preeminent fiber, textile and needle artists. A few are a part of the permanent collections of the White House, Brookyln Museum, Studio Museum of Harlem, and American Museum Art and Design.


The entirety of the exhibit touches upon elements of racial and social justice, often tackling the hard subjects that have defined the indelible struggle of African Americans through the national history. Its official press release shares that the showcase, “not only highlights ills of oppression but it provokes a call to action for communities to research and become culturally aware that Africans in the Americas have an identity which is fractured but stands on centuries of history.”

Fabric of Emancipation features eight artists who cover a range of related themes, from addressing historic inaccuracies to debunking skewed retellings in textbooks. Artist Sara Bunn speaks about her piece, A Day in the Life of Seneca Village: “We Wore More Than Shackles,” which stages a pivotal meeting among the first female landowners, dressed in bright regalia, in New York state: “Presenting the villagers boldly dressed in positive normal day setting, helps balance the negative images of the downtrodden [and] enslaved that permeate our history school books. Owning land equates to power now and then, and for men of color, the power to vote.”

Check out images from The Fabric of Emancipation below:

Freedom, Michael Cummings, quilt, applique, textile paint, hand embroidery, found objects metal and ceramics, 56"x67"

Seen and Unseen Worlds in the Morris-Jumel Mansion, L'Merchi Frazier, quilt diptych assemblage, 68"x56" Age Aint't What It Used  to Be, Dindga McCannon, art quilt, mixed media, 65"x25"

The Heroine's Veil, Heather Marie Scholl

A Day in the Life of Seneca Village: "We Wore More Than Shackles," 1827–1858, Sarah Bunn

Conversations in Cotton: The Fabric of Our Lives, Laura R. Gadson

Changing Neighborhood, Ife Felix, machine piece quilted using reproduction fabric designs from 1892 and modern fabrics, 72”x69” 

Learn more about the exhibit, The Fabric of Emancipation, here. Read more information about Harlem Needle Arts, here, and the Morris-Jumel Mansion, here.


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