Art as Protest and Power

This display created by


Art as Protest and Power

Clark Atlanta University Museum is home to one of the world’s foremost collections of African American art. The museum’s historically significant works document social and political concerns that have defined black experience. Beyond observation and documentation, the collection reflects each artist’s unique cultural, aesthetic, and political sensibilities.

In 1942, Atlanta University began to acquire artwork through an annual national juried competition. Initiated by painted and activist Hale Woodruff, the Atlanta University Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, and Prints by Negro Artists of America lasted for 28 years. At the opening address, Harlem Renaissance writer Alain Locke described the show as part of a movement:

… One of the ultimate goals of the whole art movement among Negroes … is to encourage a healthy and representational art of the people with its roots in its own soil rather than a sophisticated studio art divorced from the racial feeling and interests of people.

The works collected represent African American artistic responses to their most ardent struggles. One of these is the quest for full citizenship. A central subject is almost always the manner in which their rights were denied and the contributions they nevertheless made to the American nation.