The Colored Museum
William “Ethiop” Wilson and the Afric-American Picture Gallery
In turning to one of the most curious stories in all of African American literature—William J. Wilson's “Afric-American Picture Gallery” (1859)—this last chapter examines the relationship between visuality and curatorial practices as they relate to the representations of an alternative vision of U.S. nation formation and democracy. It contends that “Afric-American Picture Gallery” remains important not only as a contemporaneous account of various artwork but for its depiction of “Ethiop” as the curator who arranges the space of the museum. More theoretically, the chapter offers a reading about how to reconsider the making of the antebellum black public sphere, one where the discourse of politics is translated into objets d'art in the recesses of the mind as an act of interiorization, one where each reader ostensibly becomes an artist at the moment of visualizing these very images.
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