The National Museum of African American History and Culture (Courtesy photo)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will open Friday its latest exhibit, “Spirit of the Dark: Religion in Black Music, Activism, and Popular Culture.”

The exhibition will feature never-before-seen objects from the museum’s permanent collection, alongside rare photographs and stories featured in Ebony and Jet magazines. The Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts gallery will house the exhibition until November 2023.

The exhibit includes photographs of prominent Blacks such as Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, Maya Angelou and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The photos are from the Johnson Publishing Company archive, which is jointly owned by the museum and the Getty Research Institute.

“The role of the Black press has always been pivotal in amplifying African American social and religious life,” said Eric Lewis Williams, the museum’s curator of religion. “Ebony and Jet capture and granted a rare insight into the lives of influential Black figures, often revealing how religion has inspired, undergirded, and animated the work of Black artists, activists, and changemakers. Through these photographs, objects, and the larger stories they represent, we are able to highlight the tremendous diversity within the Black religious experience and bear witness to the role of religion in the Black struggle for human dignity and social equality.”

Featured during the exhibition will be sections dealing with Blurred Lines: Holy/Profane between religious and non-religious themes in music and how often they are mixed together; Bearing Witness: Protest/Praise examines Black religious leaders who ministered to the spiritual needs of the people as well as led as activists in social justice; and Lived Realities: Suffering/Hope looks at how Black artists and activists articulate the struggle for justice and equality through their talents, faiths and moral vision.

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