Danny Simmons, the founder of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, is the curator for the exhibition, 20 Years of African Voices. Artwork from the magazine’s front and back covers will anchor the exhibition. Photo essays and other archival pieces will give viewers a historical perspective on African Voices’ 20-year celebration of Black art and literature.
Marilyn Nance’s photographs documenting the African burial ground and Chester Higgins, Jr.’s stunning image of the late dance choreographer Katherine Dunham, give viewers a chance to glimpse inside the magazine’s covers. Michele Stewart’s haunting black and white sketch showing four pairs of girl legs sitting in a church pew holding hymn books captures the horror of poet Letta Simone-Nefertari Neely’s “Which patent leather shoe belong to which found leg.” The poem is dedicated to the four girls murdered in the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. The illustration masterfully shows the young girls living—one with a band aide on her knee—but their heads are not in the drawing, a visual sign that something unspeakable is amiss.
The exhibition will feature a diverse selection of the journal’s cover artists, such as Faith Ringgold, Otto Neals, Justin Bua, Francks Deceus, James Top, Elizabeth Catlett and Verna Hart. The front and back cover artists have established a unique visual vocabulary for the magazine's iconic literary style.