exhibition Without Sanctuary:
Lynching Photography in America comprises approximately 100
photographic prints and postcards, ranging in date from 1870 to 1960, that
document the history of lynching in the U.S. These materials were collected by James Allen and John
Littlefield, and remain part of the Allen/Littlefield Collection, on
deposit in the Special Collections Department, Robert W. Woodruff Library,
exhibition was first seen last year at the Roth Horowitz Gallery in New
York City, after which it moved to The New-York Historical Society. It received overwhelming public
response, and numerous museums and galleries became interested in hosting Without Sanctuary. The Andy Warhol Museum will present
another expansion of the exhibition an is the first to show this collection
outside of New York.
the publication accompanying the exhibition, James Allen says of his
Until I came upon a postcard of a lynching,
postcards seemed trivial to me . . . Studying these photographs has
engendered in me a caution of whites, of the majority, of the young, of
religion, of the accepted. Perhaps
a certain circumspection concerning these things was already in me, but
surely not as actively as after the first sight of a brittle postcard of
Leo Frank dead in an oak tree. It
wasn’t the corpse that bewildered me as much as the canine-thin faces of
the pack, lingering in the woods, circling after the kill . . . the
photographic art played as significant a role in the ritual as torture or
souvenir grabbing—creating a sort of two-dimensional biblical swine, a
receptacle for a collective sinful self.
Lust propelled the commercial reproduction and distribution of the
images, facilitating the endless replay of anguish. Even dead, the victims are without
images of man’s inhumanity to man have an overwhelming visceral
impact. Such strong imagery can act
as a catalyst to enable viewers to move beyond traditional rhetoric towards
a fuller and truer expression of collective humanity. This project is supported in part by the
Animating Democracy Initiative, a program of Americans for the Arts, funded
by the Ford Foundation.
Andy Warhol himself often chose
sober themes for his art, vide,
his car crash, suicide, and race riot compositions. Strong visual imagery, whether in the realm
of art or in the form of a newspaper front-page photograph, has always been
the most potent when it focuses on man in extreme situations. Such images arrest us, their indelible
power staying with us forever. I
encourage all of you to visit The Warhol during the run of Without Sanctuary.
Director, The Andy Warhol Museum
Without Sanctuary Project
A museum is an answer
to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be a human being?
“Museum as Dialogue,”
museum can fully answer the question of what it means to be a human being,
but the museum may provide the opportunity for a vital and relevant
answer. As an art museum and a
single-artist museum in particular, The Andy Warhol Museum’s answer
explores the fullness of a creative life in all its humanity and the power
of imagery and art to affect and reflect our world. The Warhol’s place as a vital forum
within our community is also central to our mission.
picture is worth a thousand words” may be a cliched phrase, but it captures
the unique ability of imagery to arrest us. Andy Warhol recognized this power. Many of his artworks were created using appropriated images
from newspaper and magazine photographs that had powerful cultural and
symbolic resonance. Warhol also
amassed collections of hundreds of press and publicity photographs.
hope the presentation of the exhibition Without
Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America at The Warhol will provide
visitors with an environment in which to view this material and will create
opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and expression. The
Museum is working with individuals, communities, and organizations to
explore the issues of the exhibition in a wider context and in ways that
make a meaningful contribution to the dialogue on race and community
relations in Pittsburgh.
is a first of its kind project at The Warhol—a confluence of resources,
dialogues, and programs, and, at the center, the exhibition Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography
--Margery King, Associate Curator
Jessica Arcand, Curator of Education
Courage takes many forms…
was courageous of Atlanta antiques dealer James Allen to collect the
shameful photographs and postcards of public hangings that comprise the
book and exhibition Without
Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. And, I believe that it is courageous of The Andy Warhol
Museum to bring this exhibition to Pittsburgh and provide a forum for
community discussion of the difficult issues this subject engenders.
Historian Kenneth Milton Stampp called slavery in America the
“peculiar institution.” As an
historian myself, I am interested in the many peculiar ways that slavery
has marred our society throughout our past and to the present day. This is, in part, what The Warhol hopes
to confront by exhibiting these graphic photographs and encouraging
community interaction and dialogue about them. By being the first art museum in the country to do so, The
Warhol is supporting Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s vision of setting a
national standard for integration into the communities we serve.
urge you to take the courageous step of seeing the exhibition of
photographs and taking part in the special programming surrounding Without Sanctuary at The Andy Warhol
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
A quote from Tom S. to use early in layout:
"Lynch law" in the
American landscape (768 words)
1933, James Weldon Johnson (writer, activist, and Executive Secretary of
the NAACP from 1916-1931) made a stunning observation in his
autobiography. Recalling a lynching
that he investigated in Memphis in 1917, he wrote, "I reassembled the
picture in my mind: a lone negro in the hands of his accusers, who for the
time are no longer human; he is chained to a stake, wood is piled under and
around him, and five thousand men and women, women with babies in their
arms and women with babies in their wombs, look on with pitiless
anticipation, with sadistic satisfaction while he is baptized with gasoline
and set afire. The mob disperses, many of them complaining ‘They burned him
too fast.’ I tried to balance the sufferings of the miserable victim
against the moral degradation of Memphis, and the truth flashed over me
that in large measure the race question involves the saving of black
America’s body and white America’s soul." Johnson’s conclusion was indeed compelling. Mob violence resulted not only in the
arbitrary murder of mostly black men, but also poisoned the very soul of
white America and was anathema to American democracy.
"lynch law" was part of the American landscape for centuries, it
was during the Reconstruction era that lynching came to symbolize the most
virulent form of racism. White
southerners were affronted and humiliated by Reconstruction and the federal
government’s control over the region. As African Americans gained political
rights and pursued economic and social advancement, a new phase of race relations began.
When the final vestiges of federal troops departed in 1877, the southern
"redeemers" grew increasingly committed to reestablishing the
racial hierarchy that existed before the Civil War, but they no longer
could count on a legally sanctioned slave system to facilitate the abject
subjugation of African Americans.
The methods they utilized to reinstate "order" proved
especially perilous to the region’s African-American residents.
Lynching, the ritualistic mob
murder of African Americans, was rationalized by the "rape myth,"
or the idea that with their newly attained rights black men were seeking
supremacy by sexually assaulting white women. Thus, the mob "took the
law in its own hands" and meted out punishment for alleged crimes,
denying the accused the rights of due process.
Reconstruction and 1930, around 5,000 people were victimized by lynch mobs.
The overwhelming majority of victims were southern black men. Lynching had devastating effects on the
entire black community. It served
as the most effective warning of the consequences of black advancement. In effect, it embodied all the
complexities and intricacies of American race relations: race hatred,
prejudice, power, sexuality, and violence.
the atmosphere of terror and intimidation,
leaders and members of the African- American community staged
effective and sophisticated campaigns to put an immediate end to the
vicious practice and to the societal conditions that allowed lynchings to
occur. One of the most courageous
of these leaders was journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, who in 1892
suffered the loss of three close friends at the hands of a mob in Memphis.
Their "crime" was the successful operation of a local grocery
store that provided unwelcome competition to white merchants. Wells embarked on a persuasive writing
and speaking campaign and exposed the realities of lynching. She proved that the vast majority of
victims were not even accused of a sexual crime, and frequently were
accused of no crime at all, except perhaps "talking back" or
"testifying against whites."
Wells’ determination to demythologize lynching and improve
conditions for African Americans was at no small personal cost. After publishing a particularly biting
editorial, she was forced to shut down her newspaper, flee from the South
and continue her campaign from the North.
have been countless reformers, activists, artists, writers, educators,
church leaders and members, from the North and the South, both
African-American and White, who dedicated themselves to the amelioration of
the African-American condition. Critical to that process was eliminating
lynchings and directly addressing the societal attitudes and environment
that promoted and justified such a brutal and racist practice in a land
that promised justice and liberty to its citizens. These anti-lynching crusaders, including
the important newspaper The
Pittsburgh Courier, faced the problem squarely and challenged American
inconsistencies with courage, often facing consequences for their sharp
critique and "impudence."
And yet they persisted in their efforts on the grass roots level to
make the American promise a reality.
anti-lynching movement is a powerful legacy that reminds us that we must
continue to ask difficult questions
of our society and citizens, and to challenge attitudes and prejudices that
nurture racist acts.
Visiting Professor of History
of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Time magazine (December 31, 1999) called a sad,
shadowy song about lynching, Strange
Fruit, the best song of the 20th century, because in singing it
"Billie Holiday, history's greatest jazz singer, comes to terms with
history itself." This
attention helped trigger the publication of a short, sophisticated book
entitled Strange Fruit: Billie
Holiday, Café Society and the Early Cry for Civil Rights (Philadelphia:
Running Press, 2000), by Vanity Fair
writer David Margolick, with a forward by Hilton Als, a New Yorker writer.
in a sense out of the closet, is the story of a song which debuted in
Greenwich Village in 1939 and became the signature song of the great blues
singer. The lyrics describing a lynched black man hanging from a poplar
tree were written by Abel Meerpol, a high school English teacher in New
York City, who was also a writer, composer, poet, and political
activist. Billie Holiday sang it
regularly at the close of her café society performances, to a mesmerized
and silent audience. One jazz musician described her performance: "The words told the story but her
face never reflected any emotion. You listened to every word; it was like
watching water drop slowly from a faucet. It was as if she was singing 'Ave
Maria' or 'Amazing Grace.' "
(Dempsey Travis, in Strange Fruit, pp. 116-17.)
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of Magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.