January 20, 2020

Howard University Gifted 152 Works of African American Art


Untitled landscape by Robert S. Duncanson from the Walters’ donation. Photo: Howard University.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Howard University in Washington, DC, has received a gift of 152 African American artworks from the collection of arts patron Patricia Turner Walters. Valued at more than $2.5 million, the donation includes works by Robert S. Duncanson, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Grafton Tyler, and contemporary artists Barkley Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, and Kehinde Wiley. Walters also owns some of the earliest surviving works by African American artists in the country as well as paintings, sculptures, rare prints, and photographs from the Harlem Renaissance and other notable eras.

Walters, who began collecting in the late 1980s, is the widow of educator and activist Ronald W. Walters, who served as dean of the school’s political science department and was a professor at the university for twenty-five years. Known for helping Reverend Jesse Jackson throughout his presidential campaigns in the 1980s, Ronald received an NAACP award or his role in the civil rights movement in 2006. The university, which is already the home of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center, is planning to establish an endowed chair for race and black politics in his name.

“This gift comes at the perfect moment to expand our students’ involvement in the political conversations of our time,” Howard president Wayne Frederick said in a statement. Commenting on the collection, Patricia told WAMU: “Back when I started collecting in the eighties, African American art was not really a high-profile entity. . . . I could not be more delighted about the decision to give my art collection to Howard, the institution that my husband cared so deeply about.”

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