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Combating Racism: Betsy Graves Reyneau, Laura Wheeler Waring, and Representation of Black Achievement

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In the 1943, the Harmon Foundation commissioned artists Betsy Graves Reyneau and Laura Wheeler Waring to make portraits of eminent Black Americans capable of highlighting Black achievement and fighting white prejudice.These 42 paintings were first shown at the Smithsonian in 1944. This discussion will revisit this exhibition, exploring the intersection of gender, philanthropy, Black history, and African American art during and just after World War II to show the exhibition’s complex formation. It will also seek to understand the work within the broader context of Americanness during the Second World War.