Group exhibition

'Frederick Douglass: Embers of Freedom'

The SCAD Museum of Art presents an exhibition centered on the Frederick Douglass Family Archive from the collection of Walter and Linda Evans. This historic register of the Douglass family’s manuscripts, letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs are displayed in dialogue with artworks by contemporary artists whose work reflects the aesthetic and political values espoused by this revolutionary leader.

For Douglass (1818-1895), an individual who was born into slavery and went on to become one of the world's most-renowned social justice campaigners, the right to the imagination was the right to life. In his work as an orator, author, and fierce intellectual, the abolitionist believed that not only words, but works of art, were tools in the path for freedom. As a prolific creator and collector of autobiographies, essays, diaries, poems, photographs, paintings, drawings, and sculptures – many of which now reside in the Walter and Linda Evans Collection and are included in this exhibition – Douglass ultimately believed in art as a means to individual and collective liberation.

Portrait of Joseph Henry Douglass and Frederick Douglass
Unknown photographer (likely Dennis Bourdon, Notman Photographic Company), "Joseph Henry Douglass and Frederick Douglass," May 10, 1894, cabinet card photograph. Collection of Walter and Linda Evans, Savannah, Georgia.

Frederick Douglass: Embers of Freedom is a dynamic exhibition that addresses critical subjects that shaped the life’s work of Douglass and continue to be at the forefront of today’s sociopolitical discourse. This project makes visible the historic narrative of the Douglasses and their unwavering commitment to transatlantic abolitionism and radical reform, not only for African Americans but for society as a whole. Additionally, this exhibition offers an expanded definition of Douglass, as it considers him not only as a key figure for civil rights but also an advocate for women’s suffrage, one of the first proponents of photographic theory and, perhaps most distinctively, as a family man.

Key issues examined within this exhibition include: the value of family, representation and visibility, archival methodologies, the legacy of slavery, black resistance and intergenerational struggle. The Douglass family’s archival materials have been brought into view alongside special commissions by artists Onyedika Chuke, TR Ericsson, Glyneisha Johnson, Le’Andra LeSeur (B.F.A., photography, 2014), and Charles Edward Williams (B.F.A, advertising, 2006); as well as master works by Jacob Lawrence and Charles White held within the SCAD Permanent Collection; and critical objects by some of the leading figures of contemporary art such as Lyle Ashton Harris, Titus Kaphar, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Betye Saar. Together, this holistic grouping of artwork provides viewers with the opportunity to consider the past and present circumstances in which the ongoing fight for social justice has taken place. In this exhibition, there is hope that viewers will be galvanized by the monumental feats of this "First Family of African American History," to carry on the torch of activism.

Artists featured:

Raphaël Barontini
Kevin Beasley
Onyedika Chuke
Scott Covert
Omar Victor Diop
TR Ericsson
LaToya Ruby Frazier
Lyle Ashton Harris
Lubaina Himid
Glyneisha Johnson
Titus Kaphar
Jacob Lawrence
Le’Andra LeSeur
Meleko Mokgosi
Martha Rosler
Betye Saar
James Van Der Zee
Barbara Walker
Gillian Wearing
Charles White
Charles Edward Williams
Wilmer Wilson IV

Douglass-related projects The Golden March by Raphaël Barontini and Frederick Douglass: Lessons of the Hour by Isaac Julien are presented in the museum’s Jewel Boxes and Experimental Gallery, working in conversation with this exhibition.

Install Views


Frederick Douglass: Embers of Freedom is curated by Humberto Moro, curator of SCAD exhibitions; Ben Tollefson, assistant curator of SCAD exhibitions; Ariella Wolens, assistant curator of SCAD exhibitions; Storm Janse Van Rensburg, former head curator of SCAD exhibitions, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, professor of black studies and personal chair in English literature at the University of Edinburgh.

Museum Admission

The exhibition is free for museum members and SCAD students, faculty and staff with a valid SCAD Card. Open to the public with the cost of museum admission.

Partners and sponsors

This exhibition was made possible in large part by the collection and generosity of Walter and Linda Evans.

Funding for this exhibition is provided in part by:

Mark Berry, Carver State Bank, Michelle Garcia Daniels, Jane Eckert,  Richmond Fergerson, Sylvester C. Formey, FACE Foundation, Gamma Sigma Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Eufaula Garrett, Georgia Power Foundation, Cathy Hill, Johnny Howze, International Paper, Dr. M. Ann Levett, Sharon Levett, E. Shaver Bookseller, M.A.R.T.H.A. Inc. Foundation, Jessica Sognier Osborne, PNC Foundation, Barbara Ruddy in honor of Michael Ruddy, The Savannah Delta Foundation Inc., The Savannah Tribune, David and Letta Sneed, Makeda Stewart, SunTrust Bank, Lorlee and Arnold Tenenbaum, and Anna Watson.

More on view