Barbara Earl Thomas, the descendant of sharecroppers, was commissioned by Yale to replace glorified depictions of the south and slavery on a university dining hall, the Wall Street Journal reports.
What We Know:
- In 2017, Yale University changed the name of one of its residential colleges once honoring John C. Calhoun, a former U.S. Vice President and slavery supporter. The college is now named after Grace Murray Hopper, a renowned computer scientist and naval officer. Still, the building’s windows display pictures honoring the history of the south and slavery.
- Barbara Earl Thomas, a Black woman, was commissioned to add to and replace some of the depictions. “I’m interested in how we connect the past to the present so that we don’t lose the link,” Thomas said. “I think in order to understand how we got here, you very much have to make clear where we’ve come from.”
- Some of the art pieces were removed and placed in the university archive, including some showing slaves working in a cotton field. Others showing Southern architecture before the Civil War will remain alongside Thomas’ new work.
- Some of Thomas’ proposals show Calhoun pointing at books titled “History” and “Past” while a Black man reads alongside him. Another depicts a hummingbird bringing Hopper’s name forward while Calhoun’s name remains in the background, representing the name change and its significance. The following picture is a proposal from Thomas:
- The commission comes as university’s around the country are trying to find ways to properly address their racist history. Just last month Clemson University removed Calhoun’s name from the university honor’s college.
Anoka Faruqee, a Yale Art professor who led the search committee that hired Thomas, said the work is meant to generate conversation about the schools history. “We didn’t want the artwork to deny the history of the site and the pain of that history,” she noted.