Still I Rise: The Black Experience at Reynolda
February 22, 2022 — December 31, 2022
Master Bedroom Gallery
“Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I rise.” Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise,” published in 1978, was an assertion of dignity and resilience in the face of oppression. In the 1980s, Angelou used Reynolda as her stage, sharing words of humanity, survival, and triumph. But before her, numerous Black lives impacted and intersected with the story of Reynolda. Still I Rise: The Black Experience at Reynolda examines the lives of the Black women and men who helped shape Reynolda as it evolved from a Jim Crow era working estate into a museum for American art.
From 1912 through the 1950s, during one of the most repressive climates for Black people in North Carolina history, Black men and women navigated Reynolda’s segregated spaces—farming the land, constructing buildings, and working as domestic staff within Reynolda’s walls. During this era, segregation, the exploitation of Black labor, and laws that regulated Black behavior affected the lives of all individuals in the Reynolda story, whether at Reynolda or at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. While the struggle for equality did not end with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the story of Reynolda pivoted to one of a public cultural institution. When it opened its doors in 1967, Reynolda’s intersection with Black lives shifted as the young, fledgling museum provided a venue for Black artists to celebrate their art. Artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Maya Angelou transformed the historic setting into a stage for their art and teachings. Through art, letters, photographs, and audiovisual recordings, Still I Rise: The Black Experience at Reynolda examines Reynolda’s complicated past in a space designed for reflection and healing.
This exhibition has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.