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New Photo Exhibit Spotlights Intersections Of Racism, UNC, And Black People

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A new exhibit on display at the National Civil Rights Museum is diving into the racist history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its neighboring community.

Tarred Healing is a powerful and thought-provoking photographic exhibition that examines the intersection of racism, Confederate monuments, and the complex relationship between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, its students, and the surrounding Black community. The exhibition, created by award-winning photographer Cornell Watson, features 15 images that depict vandalized and segregated cemeteries, students protesting tenure denial for faculty of color, demonstrations against environmental racism, and sites of racial terrorism.

“We first learned of Watson’s story through national media,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, the museum’s Director of Interpretation, Collections, and Education. “Tarred Healing reflects the complex and fraught process of racial reconciliation beyond the removal of Confederate symbols on campuses throughout the country. Watson’s vivid photography illustrates the long arc toward justice,” she said.

The exhibition was initially pulled from a UNC campus center after university officials had “disagreements over content and scope,” leading Watson to accuse the university of censorship.

The exhibition’s display at the National Civil Rights Museum is significant for Watson, as the stories and themes depicted in Tarred Healing mirror many of those found in the National Civil Rights Museum.

Watson’s photographs are a combination of conceptual and documentary photography and serve as a reflection of the reality of racism and its impact on the community. It is intended as an unapologetic archive of feelings and emotions and serves as a vessel for self-healing. Watson acknowledges that the tarring of Confederate monuments serves as a metaphor for the tarring of healing from racism.

“So many of the stories highlighted in Tarred Healing mirror the ones we see in the National Civil Rights Museum,” said Watson. “For example, we see the parallels between UNC’s Black Student Movement protests during the Nikole Hannah Jones tenure decision and Black student movements like SNCC during the civil rights movement.

The stories in Tarred Healing are not unique, they encapsulate so many of the stories we are all familiar with as Black people. It’s truly an honor to share these stories in the same space where the stories of my real-life heroes are shared. There could not be a better place and time for this work to be here,” he said.

The exhibition is currently on display at the National Civil Rights Museum and will be there until March 20, 2023, and is included with admission.

It could be a significant and informative experience for the visitors and an opportunity to reflect on past and present racism in America.

Click here for more information on the exhibit.


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