Exhibition Opening of “A Love Supreme: Black Cultural Expression and Political Activism of the 1960s and 1970s”

Jan. 5, 2023, 11 a.m.

yellow background, black outline profile with exhibition title on right side
Conceptualized by Caroline Charles, this graphic design reimagines materials from SCRC’s collections including Untitled artwork by Ben Caldwell, Journal of Black Poetry Volume 1, Number 10 (San Francisco, California: Journal of Black Poetry, Fall 196

Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center’s (SCRC) new exhibition titled “A Love Supreme: Black Cultural Expression and Political Activism of the 1960s and 1970s” (A Love Supreme) will be opening on January 19, 2023 and will run through July 2023. The exhibition will be on display on the 6th floor of Bird Library. A Love Supreme reimagines the Black Power and the Black Arts Movements by intentionally unmuting a multitude of Black writers, leaders and artists from SCRC’s manuscript and archival collections as well as the rare book and printed materials collection. The exhibition will open with a reception on Thursday, January 19 at 4:30 p.m. Those interested in attending should register via email to libevent@syr.edu.

Curated as a snapshot into the Black Arts and Black Power Movements, materials within this exhibition expand dominant narratives of Black pride, love, strength, philosophy and power. On display are chapbooks from prominent Black publishing houses, such as Broadside Press and Third World Press, as well as a diverse selection of journals and periodicals from various creators from the period. Also featured are works produced by both well and little-known Black visual artists such as Emory Douglas, Masood Ali-Wilbert Warren, Carole Byard and the young students of Black nationalist educators. This exhibition and its call to A Love Supreme, the title of John Coltrane’s 1964 groundbreaking album, amplifies the intimacy of Black community, their visions of liberation, and their expressions of supreme, everyday love.

The Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, coined by scholar of African American theatre, cultural critic, and playwright Larry Neal, was the “aesthetic and spiritual sister” of the Black Power Movement. The creators and activists of the Movement understood that political activism and cultural expression were inseparable. They drew in equal parts from the teachings of Black nationalist leaders like el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) and from the improvisational performance of Black free-jazz musicians like John Coltrane. Black identity was reclaimed, recentered and reaffirmed inside writing, theater, music, education, visual art and more. A politic in and of itself, Blackness became a source of pride, power, philosophy and love that Black communities utilized to forge new pathways toward liberation.

The exhibition is co-curated by Caroline Charles, SCRC Curatorial Assistant and PhD candidate in English, and Jessica Terry-Elliott, SCRC Curatorial Assistant and PhD candidate in History, in collaboration with SCRC staff. The Syracuse University Library Associates have sponsored portions of the physical exhibition.

“This exhibition, A Love Supreme, is named after the mantra Coltrane repeats nineteen times throughout his landmark jazz-suite of the same title. Our own call to A Love Supreme is dedicated to the Black People who have been fighting, creating, living and improvising since our arrival in this hemisphere,” said co-curators Charles and Terry-Elliott. “Curating A Love Supreme has been a collaborative improvisation. While being attentive to our respective training in English and History, we embraced an interdisciplinary spirit of collaboration, honoring the collaborative improvisation of the Black Arts Movement. Historically, institutional archives have ensured the preservation of white supremacy. A Love Supreme recognizes that archives hold incredible potential for reorienting us toward social justice.”

About Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) and Syracuse University Libraries:

Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center collects, preserves and provides access to materials that document the history of Syracuse University and our global society, including rare printed materials, original manuscripts, photographs, artworks, audio and moving image recordings, University records and more. Collection areas include activism and social reform, radicalism in the arts, architecture and industrial design, photography, the history of recorded sound and more. Located on the 6th floor of Bird Library, the SCRC is a vibrant research and learning environment for Syracuse University students, faculty and the broader scholarly community, providing access to world-renowned rare and archival collections and expert guidance in their use to facilitate personal discovery and the creation of new knowledge.

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