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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art 2019, Part 2: Artists and American Communities, Then: Between Myth, Evidence and Propaganda: Comparing Twentieth Century Approaches to Photographing African American Churches

Melanee C. Harvey, assistant professor, department of art, Howard University. In a talk focusing on photographic examples of black church iconography from the 1920s through the 1940s, Melanee Harvey compares images of Washington, DC churches by Scurlock Studio photographers with Office of War Information photographs by Gordon Parks. Delivered as part of the John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, “American Communities, Then and Now,” held on February 8, 2019, Harvey’s talk describes the context and social function of these photographs, considering the repetition of visual themes used to represent African American religious spaces and practices. By deconstructing reductive visual tropes of the black church, Harvey finds diverse experiences within church experience and explores the diverse aesthetic traditions of black religious expression across denominations, regions and historical periods.