Through unforeseen challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, brutality and injustice, we continue to find community. Creativity is central to our efforts to connect with collaborators and visitors.

James Fairfax: Combat Artist

James Fairfax is a former Marine Master Sergeant and an accomplished fine artist, graphic designer,and model maker. He served as Combat Artist in Vietnam from December 1968 to February 1970. His artistic practice represents an important confluence of creativity and historical documentation.

We met Mr. Fairfax when he attended a Community Curation public program at NMAAHC. The Smith Center's preservation field work is enriched by learning from the experiences of community members who utilize varied methods to keep memory and make meaning. View a segment of our interview with Mr. Fairfax, as well a selection of his paintings, below:

We use the video player Able Player to provide captions and audio descriptions. Able Player performs best using web browsers Google Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. If you are using Safari as your browser, use the play button to continue the video after each audio description. We apologize for the inconvenience.

See more from our interview with James Fairfax:

Black Liberation and the Vietnam War


Documenting the Movement

Smith Center Photographer Leah L. Jones has been documenting moments in history from behind the lens.

Below are some of the images of protest and resilience she captured on the ground in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C.

Black street sign attached to pole that reads Black Lives Matter in white text
Black Lives Matter Plaza, Washington, D.C.
Image of a clenched black fist surrounded by grass and clouds drawn on plywood surrounded by bricks
#BlackLivesMatter, Chicago, IL
Image of writing in black and green letters that reads "Silence benefits the oppressor"
Silence benefits the Oppressor, Milwaukee, WI
Crowd of Protestor's with kneeling on public street
Protestors kneeling, Washington, D.C.
Mural of black woman in a black dress holding leaning scales in left hand and Black Lives Matter sign in right hand drawn on plywood
Lady Justice, Chicago, IL
Mural of George Floyd
George Floyd Mural, Milwaukee, WI
Black man standing in street wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey
Protestor wearing Colin Kaepernick jersey, Washington, D.C.
Cardboard sign that reads Breonna Taylor Say Her Name taped to black pole
Say Her Name, Chicago, IL
Mural that reads Joy comes in the Mourning in red and yellow text
Mural that reads Joy comes in the mourning, Milwaukee, WI
White text on black sign attached to tiki torch that reads We March for HOPE not for HATE and we won't STOP BLM
Protest sign, Washington, D.C.
Woman standing in front of a mural on side walk Mural has blue background with image of a woman with Afro that reads Black Lives Matter on her afro and speech bubble that reads Stronger Together with raised clenched black fists on  right side
Stronger Together, Chicago, IL
Mural of Three hands holding up sign language letters B, L, M
Three hands showing the sign language letters for BLM, Milwaukee, WI
Mural of Breonna Taylor
Mural of Breonna Taylor, Milwaukee, WI

Voices of Resistance and Hope Digital Collecting Initiative
Launched June 2020

Image by Leah L. Jones/NMAAHC

Smith Center Newsletter:
Volume 2 Issue 1

Preview the forthcoming issue of our Smith Center newsletter with photos of our nationwide collaborative projects


Community Curation in New Orleans

Visit the link below to view photos from our New Orleans Community Curation.
NOLA Photos


Community Archiving Workshop at Saint Paul's College

Building Capacity Through Equipment Gifting

Historic 18th & Vine District - Kansas City, MO
James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University - Baltimore, MD
Shorefront Legacy - Evanston, IL

Will by Jessie Maple

Jesse Maple's Will

The Smith Center continues to fortify relationships with artists, historians, and collecting institutions across the country, collaborating to digitize and expand access to vulnerable collections related to the African American experience.

Our most recent project is the digitization of pioneering director Jessie Maple’s 1981 film, Will.

Share this page