Beyond the Gallery

Black Power in Print

In April 2021, MFA staff recovered a document long overlooked in the Museum’s archives: “A Proposal to Eradicate Institutional Racism at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.” Written in 1970 by Boston-based artist, muralist, and community organizer Dana C. Chandler Jr. (b. 1941), the manifesto challenges the MFA (and, by inference, similar institutions) to represent Black artists in their collections and exhibitions, and to financially support Black self-determination in the arts.

Chandler’s rallying cry helped push the MFA to stage the exhibition “Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston” in spring 1970. One of 70 artists featured, Chandler showed a portrait of Black Panther Party national chairman Bobby Seale as well as a painting that marked the recent murder of the young Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. In 2020—50 years after that exhibition—the MFA acquired Fred Hampton’s Door 2, the second and only surviving version of Chandler’s seminal painting, for its permanent collection. Similarly, in 2019, the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired an archive of The Black Panther newspaper, published between 1967 and 1980. Designed and illustrated by Emory Douglas (b. 1943), the Black Panther Party’s minister of culture, the newspaper defined the party’s signature visual identity, while its pages chronicled the same national and international struggles examined in Chandler’s manifesto and art.

This online project—a collaboration between the MFA and MoMA—acknowledges the belated institutional recognition of these foundational documents and artworks as part of a broader examination of the Black Power movement’s legacy in visual culture. The recent digitization of Chandler’s manifesto and issues of The Black Panther newspaper offer unprecedented access to archival materials, and new interviews between artists and scholars provide trenchant historical analysis. This archive of documents and conversations will continue to grow, connecting past and present struggles, informing a contemporary politics of resistance, and illustrating how print media of many kinds remains a key means of agitation against racial inequity and in support of the Movement for Black Lives.

Continue exploring the visual legacy of the Black Power movement through MoMA’s “Emory Douglas: Art and Revolution” project.

Image Gallery

In the late 1960s and ’70s, the Black Power movement utilized graphic imagery to promote its political platform and communicate Black experience to broad communities. These images tell fragments of that story.

Annotated Bibliography

Explore further reading inspired by a list from Chandler’s 1970 manifesto.


Acknowledgements

Every museum project takes many heads and hands to put together, and “Black Power in Print” is no different. The MFA acknowledges the following people:

Curatorial team: Michelle Millar Fisher, Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts; Liz Munsell, Lorraine and Alan Bressler Curator of Contemporary Art; Reto Thüring, Beal Family Chair, Department of Contemporary Art; and Akili Tommasino, former associate curator of modern and contemporary art.

Creative Services, Intellectual Property, and Archives staff: Jill Bendonis, Katherine Campbell, Megan Conway, Sarah Kirshner, Maggie Loh, Jane Martin, Maureen Melton, Janet O’Donoghue, Matthew Whiman, and James Zhen.

We offer sincere thanks to our esteemed external project contributors: Chenoa Baker, Dana C. Chandler Jr., Dahna Chandler, Bouchra Khalili, Kelli Morgan, and Jackie Wang.

And our esteemed program participants: Margaret Burnham, Dana C. Chandler Jr., Doug Miranda, and Nell Painter.

We acknowledge with gratitude colleagues at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, with whom we had many generative conversations throughout this project. They kindly allowed us to use images from their holdings of The Black Panther newspaper, which our former colleague Akili Tommasino brought into their collection in 2019—the act that precipitated our project.

This project would not have been possible without the generosity and skill of archivist Molly Brown from the Northeastern University Library’s Archives and Special Collections, and the assistance of Molly Copeland.

Sponsors

Supported by Bridgitt and Bruce Evans.