Our Gilded Progress: ‘Great Gowns,’ Pop Culture and Reproductive Freedoms

This year’s Met Gala invited A-list celebrities in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, racial divides, rising inflation costs, and the widening gap between the top 1 percent and everyone else. 

During this event a leaked draft of the majority opinion from the Supreme Court immediately sent shockwaves, as the public learned that our highest court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guarantees the right to abortion. Suddenly, the extreme wealth on display at the Met Gala seemed to represent all the “gilded” hubris of an historical era that seemed more “golden” than it really was—as we are now thrust back to a dystopian and despairing future we must confront and resist at all costs. 

A Conversation with Mary N. Elliott, Curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian Museum

Our final conversation in the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project features Mary N. Elliott, museum specialist and curator of American slavery at the Smithsonian Museum. Elliott helped to research, conceptualize and design the “Slavery and Freedom” inaugural exhibition for Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“Who is this woman beyond the iconic? That was really important for us: to humanize the experiences of African Americans and to also show that we’re not monolithic.”

Justice and the Meaning of the Tubman $20

A white supremacist and sexist society has consistently relegated Black women to the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Harriet Tubman, dubbed “the Moses of her people,” was no exception. She gave so much to the nation, yet in the years following the Civil War, Tubman struggled financially.

From persistent economic and housing insecurity to the highest infant mortality rates in the nation, Black women shoulder many of the same challenges Tubman endured in her lifetime. Let us work towards making these injustices a priority by the time Tubman appears on the redesigned $20.

‘Picturing Black Girlhood’: A Praise Song for Black Girls

Never before have Black girls been so visible—the thought kept occuring to me as I explored the wonder that is “Picturing Black Girlhood: Moments of Possibility,” to date the largest exhibition on Black girls in the world. The expansive showcase of emerging and established photographers and filmmakers takes us on a journey into Black girls’ interior lives that simultaneously imagines a more capacious worlds for them.

The exhibition curated by photographers Scheherazade Tillet and Zoraida Lopez-Diago highlights the history of Black women photographers while also re-imagining this world for Black girls.

Harriet Tubman in the Art of Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold’s art on Harriet Tubman is an illustration of her capacity as an artist for taking somber stories and turning them into stories of triumph, victory and joy. 

Faith (my mother) is a fabulist whose real interest is in projecting her ideas into the future. The older I get, the more I appreciate my mother’s art, in particular her insistence upon rendering the most apparently despairing circumstances of our histories as Black folk as opportunities for spiritual and magical transcendence.

A Conversation with Artist Nettrice Gaskins, “Beacon of Hope” Creator

Nettrice Gaskins is a digital artist and self-identified Afrofuturist whose work has been receiving national attention. A 2021 Ford global fellow, Gaskins’s work is featured in the current “FUTURES” exhibit at the Smithsonian.

Ms.’s Janell Hobson, who invited Gaskins to create original art for the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project, interviewed the artist over Zoom.