Black Power in Print: Dana Chandler in Boston
MFA Celebrates 55th anniversary of Black Panther Party's Founding
By: MFA - Oct 25, 2021
Artist Dana Chandler to discuss his work, his Black liberation activist history, and their resonances in Boston and beyond in upcoming public conversation on October 28
In April 2021, MFA staff recovered a document long overlooked in the Museum’s archives: “A Proposal to Eradicate Institutional Racism at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.” Written in 1970 by Boston-based artist, muralist and community organizer Dana C. Chandler Jr. (b. 1941), the manifesto challenges the MFA (and, by inference, similar institutions) to represent Black artists in their collections and exhibitions, and to financially support Black self-determination in the arts.
Chandler’s rallying cry helped push the MFA to stage the exhibition Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston in spring 1970. One of 70 artists featured, Chandler showed a portrait of Black Panther Party national chairman Bobby Seale as well as a painting that marked the recent murder of the young Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. In 2020—50 years after that exhibition—the MFA acquired Fred Hampton’s Door 2 (1974), the second and only surviving version of Chandler’s seminal painting, for its permanent collection. Similarly, in 2019, MoMA acquired an archive of The Black Panther newspaper, published between 1967 and 1980. Designed and illustrated by Emory Douglas (b. 1943), the Black Panther Party’s minister of culture, the newspaper defined the party’s signature visual identity, while its pages chronicled the same national and international struggles examined in Chandler’s manifesto and art.
The recent digitization of Chandler’s manifesto and issues of The Black Panther newspaper offer unprecedented access to archival materials, and new interviews between artists and scholars provide trenchant historical analysis. Motivated by the belated institutional recognition of these foundational documents and artworks, the online archive will continue to grow, connecting past and present struggles, informing a contemporary politics of resistance, and illustrating how print media of many kinds remains a key means of agitation against racial inequity and in support of the Movement for Black Lives.