Ain’t I America: Selections from The Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art is presented by the Hampton University Museum in recognition of the statewide American Evolution: Virginia to America, 1619-2019 Commemoration and the City of Hampton’s Commemoration of the 1619 Arrival of Africans to Point Comfort near present day Fort Monroe. To mark this occasion, 29 African-American artists, and 40 objects from the PFF Collection are presented in various media.
The exhibition title recalls the well-known 1851 “Ain’t I A Woman” speech by Sojourner Truth where the now revered abolitionist resorts to the vernacular to question slavery in America. “Ain’t I America” focuses on six themes (African American Women & The Spirit of Indomitability; All Men Are Created Equal; Race & Society – Then & Now; African-American Spirituality & Introspection; African-American Labor & Innovation; African American Music, Dance & Folkways – Then and Now)that include works portraying the myriad ways Blacks represent ‘America’ from their earliest arrival to today. Contemporary issues of identity and race, as well as, historic categories of folkways and spirituality appear throughout the exhibition. The Hampton University Museum has collected, exhibited and preserved African, African-American and American Indian art and artifacts throughout its 150-year history. The Petrucci Family Foundation of African American Art, founded in 2006, aligns well with this long standing Hampton University Museum mission in its quest to “bring focus to the full range of African American visual creativity and its essential place in the history and discourse of American art.” John S. Welch Guest Curator