By Ralph Brill
After 100 years of planning, the NMAAHC officially opened on September 24, 2016. Discussions about a U.S. museum of African American history started in 1915 when African American Civil War veterans met in Washington, DC still frustrated by the obvious racism in the U.S. Congress didn’t want to deal with this request and nothing really happened until a Committee was formed in the late 1980s which finally led to the Smithsonian Institution’s authorizing a museum in 2003. In 2006 a 5-acre site on the Mall was selected and African born British architect David Adjaye was selected as the Lead Architect with Ralph Appelbaum’s doing the interior displays. (https://nmaahc.si.edu)
Ralph Brill, Director of BRILL GALLERY of North Adams, MA was invited to attend the Opening Ceremonies. Ralph has sold more than 30 vintage 1960s Civil Rights-related photographs to the NMAAHC. These photographs were selected by the Smithsonian for their beauty and historical significance and came from the collections of Magnum photographer Leonard Freed (1929-2006) and photographer Sedat Pakay (1945- 2016).
Brooklyn born Leonard Freed was working as a photojournalist in Europe in the 1950s. He felt that he was out of touch with the American Blacks and their 1960s Civil Rights struggles so he went back to the U.S. to explore those struggles with his camera. The results were some of his best work, those images finding their permanent homes in various museums around the world including the Getty, Metropolitan, Smithsonian, High Museum in Atlanta, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Museum of the City of NY, and the Jewish Museum in New York.
Sedat Pakay was a teenager with a camera in Istanbul in the 1960s when he noticed his first Black man and asked if he might take his photo. That Black man turned out to be James Baldwin who was in Turkey to work on his writings. Pakay went on to Yale to study Art and Photography with Walker Evans. Sedat Pakay stayed connected with James Baldwin and his family and become Baldwin’s semi-official photographer. Pakay’s photographs are in the collections of the Smithsonian, MoMA, the Metropolitan, Getty, Museum of Turkish-Islamic Arts, and the University of Wisconsin.
Contact BRILL GALLERY, which represents the Leonard Freed and Sedat Pakay estates, about purchasing Freed and Pakay vintage and modern prints.
Ralph Brill, Director
Eclipse Mill—Studio 109
243 Union Street
North Adams, MA 01247