James Baldwin’s 1953 autobiographical novel “Go Tell It On The Mountain” explores the dual role of the Christian church in the lives of African-Americans: It is at once a vehicle for control and repression, and also a source of inspiration and community. The novel also paints a picture of racism in the United States. This exhibition, with the same title, finds inspiration in Baldwin’s book and attempts to explore how some artists have mined these oppositional forces found in the Christian church to generate political action.
Our American history is filled with accounts of misguided fundamentalists who have used Christianity as means to oppress people, as well as individuals who have used the Christian narrative to validate a passive immobility, perpetuating repression. At the same time, others have found inspiration in the religion and used it as a moral agency for social progress. Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind, as well as the many churches that have aided undocumented immigrants and others at the margins of society. Their acts were not and are not meant to proselytize, but merely to fight against injustice and protect human dignity.
This exhibition borrows the title “Go Tell It on the Mountain” not merely to take inspiration from the crux of Baldwin’s novel, but also because these topics need to be told on mountaintops and not hushed up. And, in the telling, to bring us closer to understanding and respect for our differences.