Let Your Motto Be Resistance | Harry Belafonte

Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

The Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture is collaborating with the National Portrait Gallery on an intriguing inaugural exhibition of photographic portraits of African Americans. Selected by guest curator and photography historian Deborah Willis, Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits explores the medium’s influential role in shaping public identity and individual notions of race and status over the past 150 years.

The exhibition's title was inspired by the rallying cry of celebrated abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) who challenged the "slaves of the United States of America" to rise up and emancipate themselves. "Let your motto be resistance!," he exclaimed. "Resistance! Resistance! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance!"

Elizabeth Catlett, b. 1919. Photo copyright Mariana Yampolsky. Courtesy Smithsonian's National Portrait GalleryThe portrait subjects come from many sectors of the African American community, from Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Edmonia Lewis, to W.E.B. Du Bois, Lorraine Hansberry, and Wynton Marsalis. Among the featured photographers who employ a variety of strategies to create their powerful images are Mathew Brady, Berenice Abbott, James VanDerZee, Doris Ulmann, Edward Weston, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, and Carl Van Vechten.

Following the exhibition’s presentation at the International Center for Photography and the National Portrait Gallery, SITES will circulate a traveling version of 70 matted and framed modern prints.

>> Visit the exhibition's website



Quote by Gordon Parks


Exhibition Specifications

Contents 69 matted and framed black-and-white photographs, text panels, labels

Companion book, educational and promotional resources

Participation Fee

$5,000 per 12-week booking period, plus outgoing shipping

Size 350 running feet
Crates 6, est.
Weight To be determined
Category History & Culture
Security Limited, with light restrictions
Shipping Outgoing
SITES Contacts Ed Liskey, 202.633.3142 (Content)
Toured Through 2012


Tour Itinerary

Dates Host Institution Status
6/26/08 9/14/08 California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA Booked
10/25/08 3/1/09 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, MI Booked
3/21/09 6/14/09 Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA Booked
7/4/09 9/27/09 Morven Museum & Garden, Princeton, NJ Booked
10/17/09 1/10/10 Museum of African American History, Boston, MA Booked
1/30/10 4/25/10 Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, GA Booked
5/15/10 8/8/10 African American Performing Arts Center, Albuquerque, NM Booked
8/28/10 11/21/10 Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, AL Booked
12/11/10 3/6/11 DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, IL Booked
3/26/11 6/19/11 National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH Booked
7/9/11 10/2/11 Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Richmond, VA Booked
10/22/11 1/15/12 Museum of Art, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC Booked
2/4/12 4/29/12 Historical Society of Saginaw County and the Castle Museum, Saginaw, MI Booked


Related Publications

Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits (Hardcover).
Exhibition catalogue by Deborah Willis

Let Your Motto Be Resistance catalogue

Press Release
None listed at this time. Please check back later.




Exhibition Specifications

Tour Itinerary

Exhibition Images

Related Websites

Related Publications

Press Release

If you like this exhibition, you might also like:

Freedom's Sisters (Archives)

Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey (Archives)

William H. Johnson: An American Modern (Archives)

Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight (Archives)



More Exhibitions from SITES


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