Exhibitions

This Morning, This Evening, So Soon: James Baldwin and the Voices of Queer Resistance

June 7, 2024 – April 27, 2025
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James Baldwin by Beauford Delaney, pastel on paper, 1963. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York

National Portrait Gallery
8th and G Streets, NW
Washington, DC

Second floor, One Life Gallery

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This Morning, This Evening, So Soon is guest curated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hilton Als. It is titled after a short story the writer, essayist, playwright, and activist published in The Atlantic.

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 relies 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 are 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 reveals 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.