MULLICA HILL — Striking images of historic segregated schoolhouses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania by acclaimed artist Wendel A. White are featured in Schools for the Colored, which opened on Feb. 27 at the Harrison Township Historical Society’s Old Town Hall Museum in Mullica Hill.
Distinguished Professor of Art at Stockton University and 2021 Robert Gardner Fellow in Photography, Peabody Museum of Archeology & Ethnography, Harvard University, White has been hailed for his work exploring historically Black towns in the northern border states through elegant black and white photographs. A visit to the historically African-American town of Whitesboro in Cape May County in 1989 has led to a now decades-long journey, camera in hand, exploring nearly forgotten communities and stories along both back roads and urban areas.
“The presence of Black schools in the communities of southern New Jersey was evident during the making of the earliest images in my first project focusing on this subject, Small Towns, Black Lives.,” White said. “The persistent role of schools as places of segregated educational apartheid and spaces for agency and accomplishment within the African American community, was a continual source for creative exploration”.
Described as “surreal and haunting,” Wendel White’s photographs in Schools for the Colored document the buildings and landscapes of the segregated U.S. educational system in the decades before the civil rights movement in the Northern border states. In his stark black-and-white imagery of both longstanding structures and crumbling and long-since-demolished buildings, White obscures the details of their surroundings into a hazy mantle of white. In cases where the structures no longer stand, White inserts silhouettes of the schoolhouses that formerly occupied the sites.
The exhibition will continue on view Saturdays and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. through May 22, 2022. White will be at the museum on Sunday, April 3, for a Meet-the-Artist Reception and will be available to sign copies of his book Small Towns, Black Lives, which is available for purchase.
Coincidentally, Wendel White’s work is also included in Posing Beauty in African American Culture currently showing at the New Jersey State Museum, 205 W. State St., Trenton, NJ, through May 22, 2022.
Old Town Hall Museum is located at 62-64 S. Main St. in the heart of Mullica Hill’s Historic District and admission is free. Information is available at 856-478-4949 and the Society’s public Facebook Page.
This exhibition and programs are made possible in part by funding from The Gloucester County Cultural and Heritage Commission at Rowan College of South Jersey, a partner of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State and the National Endowment for the Arts.