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Britt M. Rusert
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Amherst, MA 01003-9242)
The "Afric-American Picture Gallery": Imagining Black Art, circa 1859

Research and writing leading to publication of a book on the "Afric-American Picture Gallery," an 1859 work of periodical fiction by William J. Wilson that imagines the first museum of black art in the United States.

This project is an intensive study of William J. Wilson's 1859 periodical fiction, the Afric-American Picture Gallery. The Picture Gallery is a stunningly experimental work that imagines the first museum of black art in the United States. Despite its publication without any actual images, Wilson uses ekphrastic description to reflect on the politics of black representation and recognition in the decade preceding the Civil War. This monograph seeks to: historicize the series within black political and aesthetic debates in the 1850s as well as cultures of black cosmopolitanism and bohemianism in antebellum New York; chronicle how the Picture Gallery anticipates later genealogies of black visual art and theory while speaking to current conversations about the role of black museums and institutions in society; reproduce the Picture Gallery as an appendix in order to make Wilson's text widely available to scholars and teachers for the first time since its initial publication in 1859.

Project fields:
African American Studies; American Literature; History, Criticism, and Theory of the Arts

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2019 – 7/31/2019