Horace Pippin

Racism and War

September 24, 2021 - February 19, 2022

September 24, 2021–February 19, 2020

This exhibition centers on Horace Pippin’s powerful work, Mr. Prejudice, which represents the artist’s response to the discrimination of African American soldiers fighting in World War II (1939–1945). Painted in 1943, the work shows a bare-chested white man hammering a wedge into the center of a giant “V”—for victory— which cracks under the stress. Pippin, who fought in World War I as part of the 369th Regiment (an African American Infantry division nicknamed the "Harlem Hell Fighters"), knew well how badly African American soldiers were treated after they returned home. Seeing how conditions had not changed for the next generation of African American soldiers, he composed this work to show how such discrimination threatened the war effort abroad and the struggle for equality at home. Mr. Prejudice is shown in conjunction with a series of vintage World War II posters and related materials that were made with African American soldiers in mind. In particular, the exhibition feaatures photographs of the African American "Double-V: Democracy Abroad and at Home" campaign. 


Horace Pippin, Mr. Prejudice courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Charles "Tennie" Harris's photographs courtesy the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

Horace Pippin's Memoir of World War I courtesy the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the Art Bridges Initiative.

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Tracing Slavery: I

Moses Williams: Silhouettes

October 22, 2021 - January 22, 2022

Tracing Slavery considers issues of racism and the African American experience through the simple, yet direct medium of cut-paper profiles, or silhouettes. Moses Williams (c. 1775–c. 1825) was born enslaved into the household of Charles Willson Peale, the early-American portraitist, naturalist, and museum founder. Williams worked in Peale’s home and fledgling museum in Philadelphia, where he cut portrait silhouettes of visitors to the museum. The majority of his portraits represent members of the white elite, some of whom were slave holders. 

This exhibition draws together silhouette imagery by Moses Williams with prints by contremporary artist, Kara Walker as a way to trace a profile of racism in American that continues to shape the present.

This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the Art Bridges Initiative.

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Tracing Slavery: II

Kara Walker: Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)

October 22, 2021 - January 22, 2022

Walker’s work deals extensively with the experience and identity of African Americans—past and present, which she explores in part through contemporary imagery portrayed as narratives cast in the manner of nineteenth-century cut silhouettes. At first nostalgic, perhaps charming in appearance, Walker’s silhouette imagery depicts the brutal reality of racial violence in American society. 

Unlike traditional silhouette artists, Walker does not create portrait likenesses, rather, she employs the medium as a way to interrogate history and expose racism. In Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), Walker “corrects” the Reconstruction-era publication by overlaying its images with silhouettes of African Americans, whose presence the publishers minimized so as to make the volumes more appealing to Southern White readers. 

Walker’s work and the nineteenth century artistic sources she references are paired with hollow-cut profile silhouettes made by Moses Williams (c. 1775–c. 1825), featured in Tracing Slavery I on display in conjunction with Walker's prints.

Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go. 

All images copyright © Kara Walker 2005.

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