Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery | This Morning, This Evening, So Soon: James Baldwin and the Voices of the Queer Resistance

By East City Art Editorial Team on July 10, 2024

Fri, July 12 2024 — Sun, April 20 2025

James Baldwin by Beauford Delaney, pastel on paper, 1963. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Copyright Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York

This Morning, This Evening, So Soon: James Baldwin and the Voices of Queer Resistance is curated by Rhea L. Combs, director of curatorial affairs for the National Portrait Gallery, with concept and text from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hilton Als. It is titled after a short story the writer, essayist, playwright and activist published in The Atlantic. Commemorating the centennial of Baldwin’s birth, the exhibition will be on view the museum’s One Life gallery.

Baldwin, who considered himself “a witness, about literature, about his works, about America and about history,” often spoke out against injustice. At a time when he and his queer contemporaries had to keep their sexuality at least partly hidden, they could fight openly for civil rights. Baldwin’s efforts to ensure the United States “kept the faith” often drew recognition, overshadowing those of other like-minded collaborators, such as Bayard Rustin and Lorraine Hansberry. A celebration of their various queer voices, this collective portrait of sorts offers an admiring corrective.

The exhibition will rely on portraiture and ephemera to explore the interwoven lives of Baldwin; Lorraine Hansberry, author of “A Raisin in the Sun”; lawyer, educator and politician Barbara Jordan; activist Bayard Rustin; and Essex Hemphill and Marlon Riggs, both poets and filmmakers. Well-known portraits by Beauford Delany and Bernard Gotfryd will be shown alongside works by artists such as Richard Avedon, Glenn Ligon, Donald Moffett, Faith Ringgold, Lorna Simpson and Jack Whitten. Viewing Baldwin in the context of his community will reveal how his sexuality, faith, artistic curiosities and notions of masculinity—coupled with his involvement in the civil rights movement—helped define his writing and long-lasting legacy.

National Portrait Gallery
8th and G Streets NW