Conferences & Symposia

Vision and Justice

Vision and Justice: A Convening

"Vision and Justice" is a two-day creative convening (April 25–26, 2019, with events at the Harvard Art Museums and Sanders Theater in addition to the day-long event at the Radcliffe Institute) that will consider the role of the arts in understanding the nexus of art, race, and justice, with a particular focus on the African-American experience.

This event, which is open to the public, grows out of the award-winning Vision & Justice issue of the photography journal Aperture (May 2016), guest edited by Sarah Lewis, assistant professor of history of art and architecture and African and African-American studies at Harvard University, and is organized around a guiding question: How has visual representation both limited and liberated our definition of American citizenship and belonging? Today, in our polarizing cultural climate, it is increasingly pictures that show us worlds unlike our own.

Cover of the Vision & Justice issue of the photography journal Aperture (May 2016) courtesy of Aperture. Photo: Richard Avedon. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, with his father, Martin Luther King, Baptist minister, and his son, Martin Luther King III, Atlanta, Georgia, March 22, 1963 (C) The Richard Avedon FoundationCover of the Vision & Justice issue of the photography journal Aperture (May 2016) courtesy of Aperture. Photo: Richard Avedon. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, with his father, Martin Luther King, Baptist minister, and his son, Martin Luther King III, Atlanta, Georgia, March 22, 1963 (C) The Richard Avedon FoundationThe convening takes its conceptual inspiration from Frederick Douglass’s landmark Civil War speech “Pictures and Progress,” about the transformative power of pictures to create a new vision for the nation. In this long understudied speech, Douglass described a vision of race, citizenship, and image making that he stated might take a century or more to be understood. This “Vision and Justice” convening will focus on both the historic roots and contemporary realities of visual literacy for justice in American—and particularly African American—civic life.

The program will emphasize short, stimulating presentations with a goal of outlining and catalyzing ideas for future work in art and justice around the country and the world. The sessions will focus on a wide range of related topics, from “Race, Justice, and the Environment” to “Cultural Narratives and Media.” The program incorporates a range of dynamic speakers and events, including a performance by Carrie Mae Weems, a film screening of work by Ava DuVernay and Bradford Young, a performance by Wynton Marsalis, and two exhibitions of works by Gordon Parks and Willie Cole, all culminating with a keynote by Bryan Stevenson on Friday evening and the conferral of the inaugural Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize at Harvard.

This public-facing event will convene a large group of prominent activists, academics, artists, and public servants. The event will also be live streamed and videotaped for later online posting as part of the Radcliffe Institute’s commitment to bringing its programming to audiences around the world.

The event is hosted by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, with additional major funding from the Ford Foundation, and is cosponsored by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, the Harvard Art Museums, and the American Repertory Theater.

Free and open to the public.

Registration will open in early spring 2019. 

#visionandjustice

Current Participants


David Adjaye
, architect and principal, Adjaye Associates

Elizabeth Alexander, poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and arts activist; chancellor, Academy of American Poets; president, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

Lawrence Bacow, president, Harvard University

Melody C. Barnes, distinguished fellow at the School of Law, Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics and senior fellow at the Miller Center, and codirector for policy and public affairs for the Democracy Initiative, University of Virginia

Alexandra Bell, multidisciplinary artist

Robin Bernstein, Dillon Professor of American History and professor of African and African American studies and of studies of women, gender, & sexuality, Harvard University

Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of social sciences, Harvard College Professor, and W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University

Vincent Brown, Charles Warren Professor of History and professor of African and African American studies, Harvard University

Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Garnette Cadogan, essayist and journalist; fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia; visiting scholar, Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University

Chelsea Clinton, vice chair, Clinton Foundation

Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia University; staff writer, New Yorker

Teju Cole, photography critic, New York Times Magazine; Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing, Harvard University

Kasseem Dean (Swizz Beatz), record producer, rapper, and DJ

Kimberly Drew, writer, curator, and activist

Ava DuVernay, writer, director, producer, and film distributor

Michael Famighetti, editor, Aperture magazine

Drew Giplin Faust, president emeritus, Harvard University

Cheryl Finley, associate professor of art history, Cornell University

Nicole R. Fleetwood, associate professor of American studies and graduate faculty in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

LaToya Ruby Frazier, visual artist; associate professor of photography, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University

Theaster Gates Jr., founder and executive director, Rebuild Foundation; inaugural distinguished artist in residence and director of artist initiatives, Lunder Institute for American Art; professor, Department of Visual Arts, the University of Chicago

Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Agnes Gund, philanthropist and art collector; founder, Art for Justice Fund; president emerita, Museum of Modern Art

Catherine Gund, producer, director, writer, and activist; founder and director, Aubin Pictures

Mona Hanna-Attisha, assistant professor of pediatrics and human development and founder and director of the Michigan State University–Hurley Children's Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, Michigan State University

Elizabeth Hinton, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department History and the Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Sadie Rain Hope-Gund, photographer and writer

Robin Kelsey, dean of arts and humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography, Harvard University

Franklin Leonard, film executive; founder, the Black List

Sarah Lewis, assistant professor of history of art and architecture and African and African-American studies, Harvard University

Wynton Marsalis, musician, composer, and bandleader; managing and artistic director, Jazz at Lincoln Center

Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, Harvard University

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University

Leigh Raiford, associate professor and H. Michael and Jeanne Williams Chair of African American Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Claudia Rankine, poet; chancellor, Academy of American Poets; Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry, Yale University

Jennifer L. Roberts, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

Radcliffe Roye, documentary photographer

Anna Deavere Smith, actress, playwright, and author; university professor, New York University

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director, Equal Justice Initiative; professor of clinical law, New York University

Martha Tedeschi, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, Harvard Art Museums

Hank Willis Thomas, conceptual artist

Naomi Wadler, activist

Darren Walker, president, Ford Foundation

Carrie Mae Weems, artist

Deborah Willis, university professor and chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts and director of the Institute of African American Affairs, New York University

Damian Woetzel, president, the Juilliard School

Bradford Young, cinematographer