Tomashi Jackson combines a practice based in painting and printmaking with archival research in the histories of law, urbanism, and social justice. Her work plumbs the intersections between the formal languages of visual art (color, composition, layering) and the political languages driving the histories of segregation, voting rights, education, and housing in the United States. By activating these shared motifs of art and policy, her work brings the full power of both traditions to bear on historical engagement and critical action.
In this exhibition, commissioned by Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Jackson explores the challenges of implementing the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision. Her research and work centers specifically on the 1955 case (referred to as Brown II) that followed the 1954 Brown decision. Brown II asserted that the effort to desegregate schools in the United States was to be undertaken with “all deliberate speed.”
Working with a team of Harvard graduate students, Jackson produced a volume of research that animates the legal, social, contemporary, and historical movements that flow from the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Working before and during the spring 2020 period of quarantine, Jackson and the student research team interviewed experts and sifted through the Schlesinger Library archives to produce a multifaceted approach to historical narratives of governance and policy.
Tomashi Jackson’s work is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Studio Museum in Harlem; and the Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art.
Jackson, born in 1980 in Houston, Texas, lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City. She has had solo museum exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Zuckerman Museum of Art, and another solo exhibition—The Land Claim at the Parrish Art Museum—is forthcoming in July 2021.
Her work was included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and group shows at MASS MoCA; the Contemporary Art Center, in New Orleans; the Moody Center for the Arts; and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Among many other upcoming exhibitions, her work will be included in Off the Record at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in April 2021; in Working Thought: Art, Labor, and the American Economy at the Carnegie Museum of Art, in 2022; and in What is Left Unspoken, Love at the High Museum of Art, also in 2022.
- Matt Cregor, staff attorney, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
- Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University
- David J. Harris, managing director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, Harvard Law School
- Donna Bivens, education justice coordinator and director of the Boston Busing/Desegregation Project, Union of Minority Neighborhoods
- Nia K. Evans, director, Boston Ujima Project
- Rashida Richardson, director of policy research, AI Now Institute
- Meredith Whittaker, Minderoo Research Professor, New York University, and cofounder and codirector, AI Now Institute
- Sabelo Mhlambi , technology and human rights fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and fellow, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
- Rachel Vogel AM ’18, PhD ’22, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
- Kéla B. Jackson PhD ’25, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
- K. Anthony Jones MDes ’20 Harvard Graduate School of Design
- Martha Schnee EdM ’20, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Exhibition cocurated by Jennifer L. Roberts, Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Meg Rotzel, curator of exhibitions at Harvard Radcliffe Institute
I would like to thank all our discussants for sharing their knowledge and experience with us with such clarity and generosity. I would especially like to thank Nia K. Evans, Matthew Cregor, and Donna Bivens for inspiring this inquiry for me in 2014, continuing to be available for my questions, and helping to structure my interrogation of this history. Thank you to Natalie Z. Wang for advising us to be active in ethical visual storytelling and preparing now for our memories of the future. Thanks to Connie Rogers Tilton, Meagan Bartsch, and the team at Tilton Gallery for your tireless support. Thank you to Elizabeth (Betsy) Moore and Harrison Moore for your kindness and the stability you provide. Thank you to Jane Panetta and Ashley James for your unwavering encouragement. Finally, I would like to thank my team of research assistants and editor, Rachel Vogel, and the entire team at Harvard Radcliffe Institute for your investment in this project and your agility during times of great change.