New exhibit examines legacy of plant that helped build, bind America

Justin Udo
February 17, 2019 - 7:27 pm

Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The history and current use of cotton is put under a microscope during a special exhibit and lecture in Old City.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia is using Black History Month to showcase cotton, a plant that was commonly picked by black slaves in the South.

“It's part of our history, it's part of our legacy,” said James Claiborne with the museum.

He says during Sunday's symposium they hoped to enlighten people on the importance of the plant, how people suffered and profited from it and how it's currently used in visual arts and culture.

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“We're touching cotton through our clothing, it's in our money, it's the way many of our organizations and corporations have built finance and so it's always right in front of us,” he said.

Claiborne says their exhibit “Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past” uses photos to highlight images associated with cotton and slavery, but also relate it today's markets.

“Taking landscapes in New York and Wall Street and Harlem, kind of digitally rendering new images of how cotton and how really the commodification of black bodies is still just under the surface,” he explained.

The exhibition which features photographs from Philadelphia artist John Dowell runs until February 24.