“Resilient and Regal Femininity: Life-Sized Homage to the Original Black Elite”
As part of Charleston READS!, a collaboration between the Mayor’s Book Club, Oakwood University and Charleston Literary Festival, the Mayor has invited the City of Charleston to read Elizabeth Dowling Taylor’s remarkable book, The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era. Documenting the life of Daniel Murray, a successful black civic leader and assistant librarian at the Library of Congress, the book demonstrates the opportunities offered by Reconstruction for Murray to establish a resilient, influential black community in Washington and the subsequent decline of this community as a result of systemic racism.
Local curator and scholar Kim Long has created an accompanying exhibition, showcasing outfits inspired by the women who were leading this community, including activist and suffragist Mary Church Terrell.
From the pages of “The Original Black Elite” emerges a vivid tapestry of history, illuminating the lives and legacies of some of America’s most influential, yet unknown, African American leaders. The exhibit, Mary Church Terrell and The Traveling Griots: “Lifting As We Climb” brings to life the profound narratives of some of the women chronicled in the book through a unique medium: life-sized dolls. These aren’t just any figures; each doll is meticulously crafted to represent trailblazers such as Mary Church Terrell, Charlotte Forten Grimké, Ida B. Wells, and others.
As you move through the exhibit, you’ll find these dolls are more than mere representations. They serve as tangible connections to a storied past, inviting you to immerse yourself in the world of the original black elites. Each figure stands as a testament to the resilience, determination, and elegance of the individuals who, despite immense challenges, shaped the course of history.
We invite you to walk alongside these pioneers, to engage with their stories, and to reflect upon their immense contributions. This exhibit is a bridge between the written word and the visual realm, offering a unique opportunity to experience history in a whole new dimension. Welcome to “The Original Black Elite” in life-sized splendor.