How the Underground Costume Designer Helps the Show's Enslaved Characters Hide in Plain Sight

How could someone use clothing to retell the story of slaves who resisted? Karyn Wagner, costume designer for the WGN TV series "Underground," faced this very challenge: reconstructing the experience of enslaved men and women who resisted their condition as chattel by escaping on the Underground Railroad.

Review of The Birth of Cool: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora

The Birth of Coal: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora is an exploration of black fashion that jumps from turn-of-the-century Jamaica to Civil Rights era United States to post-apartheld South Africa, among other places. Fashion historian and theorist Carol Tulloch examines what she calls "style narratives" of people of African descent.

#FashioningTheBlackBody Reading List

This reading list encapsulates the spirit and mission of the Fashioning the Black Body in Bondage and Freedom conference, which explored the generative possibilities born out of slavery. Despite its brutality, this peculiar institution could serve as a source of sartorial genius for enslaved peoples.


The Life and Work of Ruby Bailey, Zelda Wynn Valdes, and Ann Lowe

Ruby Bailey, Zelda Wynn Valdes, and Ann Lowe were three very different designers, united by their experiences as black female designers in mid-century New York City. Despite their differing design aesthetics, they faced the same racial and gender discrimination in their efforts to make names for themselves as designers in a burgeoning fashion capital.

Artist Fabiola Jean-Louis Leaves a Paper Trail That Leads to Healing

“I was upset, sad, and a well of emotions. Most of all, I was tired. So many years of my people living like this – being treated like this. I said out loud, ‘I wish we could rewrite history,’” says artist Fabiola Jean-Louis. She is describing her reaction to another spate of murders of black people at the hands of the police and the motivation for pursuing her first solo exhibition Rewriting History.

My contribution to Historically Black, an online museum organized by The Washington Post

My father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the military. Like many African American men and women, military service served as a vehicle of upward mobility. Here is a photo of my grandfather Frank James Simmons in U.S. Army uniform during World War II. He was among the 2.5 million African-American men who registered for the draft.


Why Does Céline’s Trompe l’Oeil "Pedicure" Shoe Come In One Skin Tone?

The shoe’s design is ingenious: A pedicure is built right in. Who doesn’t need a reprieve from the nail salon every now and then? Which is great, except the shoe is available only for those with porcelain white skin.

Art and Activism in a Contested Democracy

I participated in a series of classes at the Brooklyn Public Library led by the Harvard art historian Sarah Lewis on photography as an agent for greater social awareness and change. Our final assignment was to analyze an image that elucidated the relationship between societal inequity and a landmark Supreme Court decision. I was honored to have my reflection published by the Aperture Foundation.

Lemonade Draws Inspiration from the South's Cultural Legacy of Slavery

Despite its catastrophic affects on people of African descent, slavery was also remarkably generative. Just as the album’s title references turning lemons into lemonade, the bitterness of slavery can serve as a wellspring for artistic inspiration. In this way, slavery’s cultural legacy serves as connective tissue throughout Lemonade.