Bisa Butler - Claire Oliver Gallery

Bisa Butler

In my work, I am telling the story— this African American side— of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.

My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years. While we have been right beside our white counterparts experiencing and creating history, our contributions and perspectives have been ignored, unrecorded, and lost. It is only a few years ago that it was acknowledged that the White House was built by slaves. Right there in the seat of power of our country African Americans were creating and contributing while their names were lost to history.

My subjects are African Americans from ordinary walks of life who may have sat for a formal family portrait or may have been documented by a passing photographer. Like the builders of the White House, they have no names or captions to tell us who they were.

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