John Quincy Adams Ward (1830–1910), The Freedman, 1863, bronze, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 2000.15


The Unfinished Project of Liberation

  • Duration
    August 17 – December 9, 2023
    Opening Reception: September 7, 2023
  • Works by
    Sadie Barnette, Alfred Conteh, Currier & Ives, P.S. Duval & Son, Maya Freelon, Angela Gregory, Hugh Hayden, Letitia Huckaby, Jeffrey Meris, Sable Elyse Smith, John Quincy Adams Ward, Carrie Mae Weems, Ellsworth Woodward and William Woodward.
  • Organized by
    The Amon Carter Museum of American Art and Williams College Museum of Art
  • Curated by
    Margaret C. Adler, Curator of Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and Maurita Poole, Director of Newcomb Art Museum

Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation originates from an analysis of sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward’s The Freedman (1863), one of the first bronze statues of a Black person in the United States. Initially sculpted by Ward before the end of the Civil War, Adams’ figure is depicted on the cusp of liberation, having ruptured his bonds, though they are still present as a reminder of his enslavement. The show expands the investigation of how living artists envision freedom today. Seven of today’s leading Black artists —Sadie Barnette, Alfred Conteh, Maya Freelon, Hugh Hayden, Letitia Huckaby, Jeffrey Meris and Sable Elise Smith —were selected to make visible their perspectives about freedom and imprisonment, identity and personhood, and emancipation and liberation. The commissioned works are supplemented by loans of Civil War era materials and works from Newcomb Art Museum’s permanent collection to reveal the elasticity of the concept of emancipation as well as the ways in which this historic period continues to impact the United States.


Research and interpretative contributors for works in the museum’s collection include Laura Blereau, Curator of Exhibitions; Tom Friel, Curator of Interpretation and Engagement; Kendyll Gross, Assistant Curator; and Lexus Jordan, Outreach Coordinator.

Funding for this project included generous contributions from Sasha and Edward P. Bass, the Katherine Steinmayer McLean Newcomb Art Museum Fund, Ruth Dermody Sterling Fund, Elise Levy Steiner Fund, and Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University annual exhibition fund. Programming for the exhibition is supported in part by the Dorothy Beckemeyer Skau Art and Music Fund and the Sandra Garrard Memorial Fund. Our media sponsor is New Orleans Public Radio WWNO 89.9 FM.

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