Shining Light on Truth: New Haven, Yale, and Slavery at New Haven Museum
Mary Ann Goodman's Grave
New Haven, Conn. (February 9, 2024) – New Haven Museum’s newest exhibition, “Shining Light on Truth: New Haven, Yale, and Slavery,” will open on Friday, February 16, 2024. Presented by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Yale University Library, the exhibition was curated by Michael J. Morand with Charles E. Warner, Jr., and designed by David Jon Walker. The show will remain on view through summer, 2024. Admission to the New Haven Museum will be free during the show’s run, made possible by Yale University.
The exhibition team and the New Haven Museum will host a special event on Saturday, February 17, 2024. Morand, Walker, and Warner will offer introductory remarks at 1 p.m., followed by a screening of the Beinecke Library documentary, “What Could Have Been,” at 1:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served. The curatorial and design team will give brief introductory remarks again at 2 and 3 p.m., with additional screenings of the documentary at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.
The exhibition complements the publication of the new book “Yale and Slavery: A History,”(Yale University Press, 2024) by David W. Blight with the Yale and Slavery Research Project and draws from the research project's key findings in areas such as the economy and trade, Black churches and schools, the 1831 Black college proposal, and memory and memorialization in the 20th century and today. The exhibition has a special focus on stories of Black New Haven, including early Black students and alumni of Yale.
"Shining Light on Truth" presents evidence of the essential role of enslaved and free Black people in New Haven and at Yale. It celebrates Black resistance and community building. And it illuminates knowledge kept alive in archives and memory for more than three centuries—even when the dominant culture choses to ignore, bury, or forget.
The exhibition features archival images of materials from Beinecke and other collections, connects to items in the New Haven Museum collections, and notes other local sites of memory. It introduces visitors to some of the unheralded builders of Yale. It celebrates early Black writers such as Jupiter Hammon, Jacob Oson, and William Grimes, and it showcases women such as Mary Ann Goodman, whose generosity opened paths for Black students at Yale, as well as the women who were local pioneers in Black education early in the 19th century.
The exhibition is located in the museum’s upper rotunda and an adjacent gallery room. That gallery has been made into a reading room that evokes a library of the Black college proposed, and thwarted, in New Haven in 1831. Visitors can view dozens of photographs of early Black Yale students and alumni, a number of whom grew up in New Haven. This reading room also features “school albums” with images and biographies of nearly 200 early Black Yale students, from James W. C. Pennington in the 1830s to Shirley Graham a century later in the late 1930s. It will also have bookcases with related texts and reproductions of archival materials. Visitors are encouraged to sit, read, and reflect in this library space.
“This is a deeply meaningful New Haven story that we are honored to host,” says New Haven Museum Executive Director Margaret Anne Tockarshewsky. “‘Shining Light on Truth’ supports the New Haven Museum’s continuing mission to connect with the community and expand our audiences.” She adds, “We are grateful to Yale for making that possible by underwriting free admission during the course of the show and ensuring access to all who want to visit.”
Morand is director of community engagement at Beinecke Library. He authored a chapter in "Yale and Slavery: A History" and has been a leader in the research project's research and work. A New Havener for four decades, he chairs the Friends of the Grove Street Cemetery and is on the boards for the Dixwell Q House and the Community Foundation.
Warner is a graduate of Morehouse College and works with the New Haven Public Schools. He chairs the Dixwell Church History Committee, is a member of the Yale and Slavery Working Group and is a Beinecke Community Engagement Fellow. Warner is chairman of the Connecticut Freedom Trail, a collection of 160 sites and institutions throughout Connecticut related to the history of slavery, abolition, and Black history.
Walker earned his MFA in graphic design from Yale in 2023. He has a BA in art from Tennessee State University and an MFA in web design from the University of Memphis. Before coming to New Haven, he was a professor in design at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. He is Artist in Residence this year at Yale's Jonathan Edwards College.
Morand, Walker, and Warner express their gratitude to scores of colleagues and collaborators whose effort and support have been essential to this exhibition, with special thanks to everyone at the New Haven Museum, to Yale President Peter Salovey and Susan Gibbons, Vice Provost for Collections and Scholarly Communications and Chief of Staff to the President of Yale, and to research and writing colleagues Jennifer Coggins and Hope McGrath, among others, in Yale Library.