I do not know if it was premonition… a few months ago before the election of Donald Trump, The Color Line exhibition was announced in France at the Quai Branly Museum.
The term “Color Line” was originally used as a reference to the racial segregation that existed in the United States after the abolition of slavery. An article by Frederick Douglass entitled “The Color Line” was published in the North American Review in 1881.
The phrase gained fame after W. E. B. Du Bois’ repeated use of it in his book The Souls of Black Folk.
No need to say that I was surprised because the same exhibition was forbidden in the United States due to some pictures and articles dating from that time that could shock a certain category of the population ( the Afro-American community) and lead this one to possible riots.
The first weekend of the opening I was in the queue. While I was waiting… Impatience …curiosity… anger and also the sadness was in the process of invading me. I stamped with impatience.
The Color Line… Topic several times that I have studied during my college years, but knowingly occulted by my professors too concerned with politically correct behavior.
The first thing that struck me was this almost religious atmosphere. This light is subdued as in a church. At the entrance the American flag, but with the colors black green and red. The Color Line… Strong message.
The heart full of emotion, I discovered the paintings, the photos, the sculptures, the art, the music of these men and women during this sad period.
Newspapers talking about the law Jim Crow… Books of W.E.B. Dubois… books talking about the “infamous” Bloody Sunday, The March on Washington “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr…
Fascinated, I watched these films showing the migration of Afro-Americans from the South to the North fleeing a segregation installed by a governor advocating the equality of men. Hoping for a better life… That’s how Harlem came to Life.
Some pictures were painful to watch. Especially one showing a white man proudly showing the penis of a black male because the same black male had the audacity to look at the white female. I almost threw up. That’s how they operated back then. Castration of the black male to make them feel less than nothing and therefore not being able to be a role model for their children, then with low self-esteem it’s easier to keep them in slavery.
But this exhibition shows also that White and Black folks fought together hand in hand for the civil right. Activist… famous actors… entertainers… athletes. Through Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Mohamed Ali, Michael Jackson, John F. Kennedy, Marlon Brandon and many more… America was for the first time at her realness.
In the lobby of the museum, a library corner with books was displayed by different writers. I like the fact that some books were for children to help them to understand this racial and political issue. “A child who reads will be an adult who thinks”.
Well… I’m not going to lie… This exhibition left me emotionally disturbed. I was sad… I was angry… I was hurt because in someway things haven’t changed a lot… in some way… But I was also full of hope because things are moving and this exhibition is the living proof.
I’m not worried about tomorrow because, as you can see, “Someone is watching over me.”
-Claudia From Paris