The Hudson River Museum Presents Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers

The exhibition is the result of a year-long project to collect and celebrate important stories and everyday moments in this community and a commitment to equity in representation in the Museum’s collection.

May 31–November 3, 2019

View press images here.

The Hudson River Museum is celebrating its Centennial with a special exhibition dedicated to the people of Yonkers, a vibrant community in Westchester that the Museum has called home for 100 years. Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers, on view May 31–November 3, 2019, brings together a selection of more than 100 years of photographs and objects that documents African Americans who have helped to make Yonkers the vibrant city that it is today. From joyful graduations and weddings to the heroic exploits of firefighters and civil rights activists, these compelling images and personal treasures have never been displayed in a museum setting.

Through Our Eyes chronicles and celebrates the stories and achievements of many individuals and groups who have been historically underrepresented in museums. The exhibition will be divided into eight major themes: Education, Social Activism, Family, Leisure, Organizations, Service and Firsts, Faith, and the Hudson River Museum. Stories span decades and tell the stories of people such as Francis J. Moultrie, who emigrated to Yonkers from South Carolina in 1869 with fifty cents in his pocket and went on to become a successful caterer and business owner; Joanne Robinson-Boettcher and Roberta Robinson Frazier, Yonkers natives who represented the city during the March on Washington in 1963; and State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who became the first woman, and first African American woman, in the history of New York State to be Senate Majority Leader.

The Museum’s Samuel H. Kress Interpretive Fellow Christian Stegall put out an open call to the public to gather images and objects from those whose stories have often been missing from museum collections and narratives. He spent more than seven months researching and interviewing Yonkers residents to collect these important stories. As a result of grassroots examination, community outreach, and classic word of mouth, Stegall collected more than 700 images, many of which will be added to the Museum’s collection. “Working with the Hudson River Museum and getting to know the Yonkers community has been such a rewarding experience,” says Stegall. “I’ve met so many wonderful people, and had the privilege to listen to their stories and learn how African Americans built a special extended family in Yonkers. Even at this point, I consider myself a part of that family.”

“What makes a museum relevant is to see not just oneself but one’s community. An important step in this process is gathering and sharing the stories and material culture that is representative of our public,” states Masha Turchinsky, Director. “Through Our Eyes demonstrates the Hudson River Museum’s commitment to building those relationships, and to developing a collection that reflects the diversity that makes us stronger. We are so grateful to all those who shared their histories with us.”

This prestigious Kress Interpretive Fellowship, awarded to only six museums nationwide this year, has a goal of diversifying the next generation of art museum professionals. Stegall, a native of Atlanta, received his MA in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program of SUNY Oneonta in 2018, and his undergraduate degree in History, Phi Beta Kappa, from Morehouse College, with a concentration in US History.

To invite even greater participation and the sharing of milestones and special moments, the Museum will offer an interactive installation inspired by Harry’s Shoe Shop and its owner, Perstine Wesley, both iconic and beloved in the Yonkers’ community. Wesley decorated his walls with photographs documenting decades of daily life in the City, and Yonkers icons such as Mary J. Blige and Ella Fitzgerald, and his shop was a welcoming meeting place. Visitors will be invited to leave their own Yonkers’ memories for others to experience, inspiring a new thread of stories on which to build.

Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers demonstrates the Museum’s ongoing commitment to making our collections and program offerings more inclusive and representative of the communities we serve. With such a large collection and vast history, we recognize that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to produce a single exhibition that fully illustrates all the experiences of African Americans in Yonkers or that of any community. With the immeasurable support from local residents, Through Our Eyes attempts to capture the essence of people’s lives here. The Museum will continue to elicit community involvement in future historical collecting efforts and displays that tell the many stories that are a reflection of our diverse public.

This exhibition is organized by the Hudson River Museum. Curated by Christian Stegall, Samuel H. Kress Interpretive Fellow, with research assistance by Quinn Barratt. Exhibition design by David Lucas.

The exhibition is featured on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtags #ThroughOurEyes and #HRM100.

Related Programs

Saturday, June 15, 1:30pm
Saturday, August 3, 1:30 pm
Curator’s Tours of Through Our Eyes

Join Kress Interpretive Fellow Christian Stegall, curator of Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers, in a tour of this exhibition, based on the contributions of African Americans in Yonkers over the past 100 years.

Sunday, June 16, 1–4 pm
A Memento for Dad
Make a one-of-a-kind print for dad for Father’s Day with images inspired by the cyanotype photography method in this workshop facilitated by HRM Junior Docents.

Sunday, June 30, 2:30 pm
Family Tour: Spoken Word Portraiture
Join us for a special family tour of our new exhibitions Can I Get A Witness: Photographs by Herb Snitzer and Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers. Be inspired by the images and create and practice performing a spoken word family portrait in the galleries.

Saturday, July 13, 2pm
Through Our Eyes Roundtable
Learn about the stories of Yonkers’ past from those who lived it. Moderated by Kress Interpretive Fellow Christian Stegall and Thaddeus Stegall, internationally recognized educator and speaker focusing on race, social justice, and leadership. This program features panelists from the community, including Luther Garrison, a lifelong resident of Yonkers whose family has been here since the nineteenth century, and Symra Brandon, Director of Community Affairs for Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the first African American woman to serve on Yonkers’ City Council. Both contributors to the Through Our Eyes exhibition, they will discuss their lives and share stories of how this community came to be.

Sunday, July 14, 2pm
All Talk AND Action: Black Power in Art
This panel discussion will explore themes exemplified by the significant works of African American artists David Clyde Driskell, Barkley L. Hendricks, and Kerry James Marshall, currently on view in Art and Identity: Highlights from the Collections of the HRM and Art Bridges and the stories shared in Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers. Panelists include: Dr. Mary E. Dillard, Professor of African History and Global Studies and Director of Graduate Studies in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College; award-winning visual artist and designer Ron Norsworthy, whose interdisciplinary practice is a fusion of fine art, video and multiple design disciplines; and New York Times photographer Dana Scruggs, who founded SCRUGGS Magazine, a print publication dedicated to her vision of the male form, and who just became the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of Rolling Stone. Moderated by Cathleen Harvey Wiggins, Director of the Museum Education Program at Bank Street College of Education and long-time lead consultant for the non-profit organization Cool Culture. It will be followed by a meet and greet with the panelists and a tour of the exhibitions by HRM Junior Docents. Support provided by Art Bridges.

Friday, August 16, 8pm
Diverse Concert Artists: This Is America
This free performance tops off our 2019 Summer Amphitheater Series. Diverse Concert Artists is committed to changing the face of classical and crossover music through diversity. Featuring works of American classical composers and pop artists, this exceptional group draws inspiration from American folk, culture, and landscape. They have collaborated with major artists including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Mark Ronson, Solange, Tony Bennett, and Bebe Rexha, and have performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Royal Opera House of Muscat, Merkin Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and many more.

For more information about our programs, visit our calendar.

Hudson River Museum’s Centennial
The Hudson River Museum is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019 with a series of Centennial exhibitions, programs, special events, and community outreach and invitations to commemorate this momentous occasion. Throughout the year, we will be publishing “100 Moments” from the Museum’s rich history, sharing archival images, stories, and crowdsourced memories about the HRM on the website and social media, as well as special displays in the Museum Lobby and Permanent Collection Gallery. #HRM100

About the Hudson River Museum

The Hudson River Museum is a preeminent cultural institution in Westchester County and the New York Metropolitan area. Situated on the banks of the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York, the HRM is a place where diverse communities come together and experience the power of art, science, and history.

The Museum offers engaging experiences for every age and interest, with an ever-growing collection of American art; dynamic exhibitions that range from notable 19th-century paintings to contemporary art installations; Glenview, an 1877 house on the National Register of Historic Places; a state-of-the-art Planetarium; an environmental teaching gallery, Hudson Riverama; and an outdoor Amphitheater. Accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting these multidisciplinary offerings, which are complemented by an array of public programs that encourage creative expression, collaboration, and artistic and scientific discovery.

The Hudson River Museum’s general operations are supported in part by Westchester County, the City of Yonkers, the Yonkers Board of Education, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Westchester Delegation of the New York State Assembly and Senate.

The Hudson River Museum is open Wednesday–Sunday, 12–5pm. Museum Admission: Adults $7; Youth (3–18) $4; Seniors (62+); Students (with valid ID) $5; Veterans $5. Planetarium Tickets: Adults $4; Youth (3–18) $2; Seniors (62+) Students (with valid ID) $3; Veterans $3. The Museum is accessible by Metro-North, by Bee-Line Bus Route #1, by car, and by bike. Make your visit a One-Day Getaway, and buy a combined rail and admission discount ticket. Learn more about Metro-North Deals & Getaways.