This semester the Binghamton University Art Museum put on a wonderful exhibit, “not but nothing other: African-American Portrayls, 1930s to Today.” I was thrilled when I first visited the gallery and saw a sculpture by Ed Wilson, who was the first African American teacher at BU (then Harpur College) and a very talented artist. Made of red hickory, the first time I saw “Minority Man #1” I knew it would be perfect for my Gender and the Cold War class.
Students in all my classes have to write regular primary source analyses (PSA), which are normally based on a written source. I quickly shifted our syllabus around and had my students write a PSA on Wilson’s sculpture instead because it so evocatively captures the cultural emasculation of black men in the mid-century which we were already discussing in my class using Steve Estes’ wonderful book, I Am a Man!
We met at the art museum at the beginning of our regularly scheduled class time, crammed into the small corridor in which the sculpture stood, and had a quick discussion about masculinity, race, and the Black Freedom struggle.
It was the first time most of the students had ever stepped foot in the art museum (indeed, a few got lost on the way!) and it was a wonderful experience having all forty of them there. I am hoping to plan more mini field trips like this in the future!