Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts

The Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA) is the Museum’s home of visual culture and innovation. Through its changing exhibitions, public programs, and publications, CAAMA showcases the formation of African American history and culture through media arts, including photography, film, video, and audio recordings.

The CAAMA gallery is located on the Museum’s 2nd floor and contains temporary media arts exhibitions that typically rotate every 12 to 14 months.

Current Exhibition

Come see CAAMA’s latest exhibition, “Now Showing: Posters from African American Movies,” on view November 22, 2019 – April 18, 2021.
Poster for film

Now Showing

“Now Showing: Posters from African American Movies” explores the art of movie posters, specifically examining films by black filmmakers or works featuring black performers. The exhibition is on view from November 22, 2019 – April 18, 2021.
Exhibition Website

Past Exhibitions

Explore CAAMA’s previous shows.
Represent Logo


“Represent: Hip-Hop Photography,” on view from March 5, 2018 – November 3, 2019, highlighted images from the Museum’s Eyejammie Hip-Hop Photography Collection and paired them with historical photos and other hip-hop related-objects. These unique pairings highlighted connections between the popular art form, and its relationship to other important historical figures, social movements, and creative moments.
Exhibition Website
Everyday Beauty interior exhibition photo

Everyday Beauty

On view from September 24, 2016 – February 4, 2019, “Everyday Beauty: Photographs and Films from the Permanent Collection” demonstrated how people have used media arts to document African Americans’ everyday lives, as well as challenge negative perceptions, demonstrate the strength of the human spirit, and promote social reform.
Exhibition Website

Public Programs

CAAMA hosts a variety of ongoing public programs celebrating and exploring African American media arts including screenings, the Cinema + Conversation film series, the Smithsonian African American Film Festival, and symposia.
Audience at Public Program Photo

Upcoming Programs

Although CAAMA does not currently have any on-site programs due to the Museum’s closure, the center is hosting programs online that are open to the public.
Digital Programs
I Am Not Your Negro Photo


CAAMA hosts free public screenings of a wide array of films—nationally premiering works from first-run studios, independent films, restored classic works, hard-to-find restored films, and works from the Museum’s permanent collection. Sometimes followed by post-screening discussions, the works are screened in the 350-seat, state-of-the-art Oprah Winfrey Theater on the concourse level of the Museum.
Past Programs
Of Mics and Men Discussion Photo

Cinema + Conversation

Cinema + Conversation is an ongoing free public film series that showcases and celebrates African American moving images and screen culture. The series brings museum curators and critically acclaimed filmmakers together to watch and discuss works from African American artists.
Past Programs
Reels of Film Photo

Great Migration Home Movie Project

The Great Migration Home Movie Project is a unique digitization program that invites visitors to make an appointment to bring their collections of home movies, videos, tapes, and audio recordings to the museum to be preserved and digitized. This free service, by appointment only, is designed to encourage and educate audiences on the importance of preserving and archiving family stories.
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Smithsonian African American Film Festival

The inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Festival, October 24 – 27, 2018, was a multi-day cinematic experience containing over 80 films that celebrated African American visual culture. The events included Screenings of historic and iconic African American films alongside contemporary works, Post Screening Conversations with filmmakers and actors, with industry experts, and Exchanges providing the opportunity to share ideas about film production and the archive of the moving image.
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Pictures with a Purpose logo


CAAMA hosts a diverse range of free, public symposia with topics ranging from visual imagery in advertising to early photography. These events delve deeply into topics through presentations and conversations with top scholars, subject matter experts, and people working in the areas discussed. The style of the programs ranges from more traditional symposia to modern TED-talk style events.
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“Double Exposure Series”

“Double Exposure,” a multi-volume series based on the Museum's photography collection, explores inaugural exhibition themes. Each of the seven volumes features about 50 photographs, a foreword by Founding Director Lonnie Bunch, and an essay by a topic specialist.

Volume Titles:

I. Through the African American Lens
II. Civil Rights and the Promise of Equality
III. African American Women
IV. Picturing Children
V. Fighting for Freedom
VI. Everyday Beauty
VII. Pictures with Purpose
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Collection Highlights

CAAMA holds the largest collection of objects in the museum, which includes more than 25,000 photographs and additional media such as film, video, and audio recordings. Explore some collection highlights below.

Dr. King Holding Arms; Dr. King, John Lewis, Reverend Jessie Douglas, and James Farmer

Spider Martin, “Dr. King Holding Arms,” Alabama, 1965.

A photograph of (L to R) James Farmer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Jessie Douglas, and John Lewis arm-in-arm during the Selma to Montgomery march.
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Alice Coltrane (“Black Journal” segment)

St. Clair Bourne, “Alice Coltrane,” “Black Journal,” 1970.

A 16mm color film print of a short documentary made for a segment of National Education Television's “Black Journal” television program. The segment focuses on the life of Alice Coltrane and her children in the wake of the death of her husband, famed jazz musician John Coltrane.
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Marriage certificate with tintypes of Augustus L. Johnson and Malinda Murphy

Unidentified photographer, Marriage certificate with tintypes of Augustus L. Johnson and Malinda Murphy, Monroe County, New York, 1874.

A marriage certificate with tintypes of Augustus L. Johnson and Malinda Murphy that reads: “Marriage Certificate / Mr. Augustus Johnson and Miss Malinda Murphy / Were this ninth 9th day of July 1874 legally joined by me in / MATRIMONY / In presence of Charles Bannister [and] Joanna Murphy to which I hereby / Certify Abraham Cole.”
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About the Director

Photograph of Rhea Combs

Rhea L. Combs, Ph.D.

Dr. Combs is the Supervisory Curator of Photography & Film. She has curated numerous exhibitions at the Museum on topics ranging from Hale Woodruff to Oprah. Her writings have appeared in anthologies, academic journals, and exhibition catalogs, and she has lectured worldwide on the power of images, African American photographers and filmmakers, and black cinema. She holds a Ph.D. from Emory University; an M.A. from Cornell University; and a B.A. from Howard University.

Photo: April Greer

The power of photographs is not only the ability to depict events, but to bring human scale to those experiences.

Lonnie G. Bunch III Founding Director

The CAAMA Collection

Explore our collection of images, film, and audio.