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Historic New England Archival Object in a New Exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum

Nov 30, 2023

Historic New England is happy to announce the loan of our archival object entitled Rio De Janeiro; Vessel; Boston, Massachusetts; Paris, Maine. is on loan to the American Folk Art Museum through March 2024 for their new exhibit Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North.

The curators believe that Pedro Tovookan Parris’s watercolor will play an essential role in the exhibition. As a one-of-a-kind visual autobiography documenting one man’s experiences in and out of bondage, the watercolor will stand out in the American Folk Art Museums’s galleries as a unique creative adaptation, representing the evolving ways that Black Americans chose to tell their stories in the nineteenth century and highlighting the themes of memory and personal agency that are central to the exhibition’s narrative.

Unnamed Figures will break new ground in the study of Black representation in the early American North. As a corrective to histories that define slavery as a largely nineteenth-century Southern issue, the exhibition will explore the untold stories of enslaved and free Black experience behind the art of early New England and the Mid-Atlantic. Accompanied by a multi-author scholarly publication, Unnamed Figures represents the first major art exhibition to explore these themes specifically within the early history of these regions. The exhibition will also advance innovative new research on historically under-studied Black figures.

The show is curated by Emelie Gevalt, AFAM’s Curatorial Chair for Collections and Curator of Folk Art, and guest co-curator Dr. RL Watson, Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at Lake Forest College, and AFAM’s Warren Family Assistant Curator, Sadé Ayorinde.