Harlem on My Mind

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Abstract

This paper reevaluates one museum’s effort to draw attention to the cultural standing of an underrepresented group of people in the United States. The exhibition, Harlem on My Mind: The Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900-1968, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969, featured the seventy-year history of the black community in Harlem. The exhibition was accused of being racist and sparked widespread protest. While I see the exhibition to be an early attempt to make an underrepresented group for the topic of a major museum exhibition, it also raised awareness of a number of contentious issues with respect to the representation of minority groups in museum exhibits. The analysis presented here uses historical documentation to evaluate why the exhibition was controversial and elicited opportunities for changes in museum practices.