National Museum of African American History and Culture Releases Book on Black Religion and Spirituality
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has announced the release of a new book of photographs and essays exploring the dynamic ways African Americans have engaged in the practice of religion and spirituality from the 19th century to the present.
Movements, Motions, Motions: Photographs of Religion and Spirituality from the National Museum of African American History and Culture draws upon the museum’s wide-ranging photography collection and features images of notable figures, including Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, Father Divine, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Elijah Muhammad, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, Bishop Myokei Caine-Barrett and others along with photographs of religious celebrations, ritual practices and individual moments of faith and spirituality.
Featured photographs put the spotlight on diverse spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and indigenous African faith systems. They also show how photographers have documented contemporary events and movements including Black Lives Matter and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the 34 identified photographers represented are Lola Flash, Chester Higgins, Jason Miccolo Johnson, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Kenneth Royster, James Van Der Zee, Milton Williams and Lloyd W. Yearwood.
The book’s foreword is by Kevin Young, Andrew W. Mellon Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
There are two key initiatives at the museum to which this volume owes much: the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life (CSAARL) supported by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., and the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media (CAAMA).
Dedicated to researching the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of African American people, CSAARL is the first center of its kind for any museum in the United States and is committed to groundbreaking scholarship, public programs and collecting initiatives. A number of the photographs in this new book were first brought to the public through exhibitions in the museum’s CAAMA gallery.
The book presents more than 65 photographs contextualized around three themes: “Movements,” which features the vast complex of religious organizations and traditions within the African American experience; “Motions,” which highlights images that capture physical movement in sacred rituals and practices; and “Moments,” which captures the cycles, seasons and celebrations observed within faith traditions.
The new volume is the eighth book published as part of NMAAHC’s Double Exposure series, which was launched in 2015 to showcase the museum’s photography collection.
Movements, Motions, Moments features essays by noted scholars:
- Eric Lewis Williams and Teddy Reeves, curators of religion at NMAAHC
- Melanee C. Harvey, assistant professor of art history at Howard University
- Judith Weisenfeld, Agate Brown and George L. Collard Professor of Religion and chair of the Department of Religion at Princeton University
- Anthony B. Pinn, Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and professor of religious studies at Rice University
The book is published in collaboration with GILES based in the UK.
Its editors are Laura Coyle, assistant director for collection cataloging and digitization, and Michèle Gates Moresi, supervisory museum curator of collections, both of NMAAHC.
The book is available for purchase here.
About the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 7.5 million in-person visitors and millions more through its digital presence. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit nmaahc.si.edu follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.
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