History and New Futures

  • Lesley MacVane

inkjet print, 2020.

Artist Statement

In 1957 Dorothy Counts-Scoggins walked down North Irwin Avenue in Charlotte, North Carolina and into history as the first Black student to integrate what was then Harding High School. An antagonistic crowd of white students and adults greeted her with racial slurs. They threw trash at her and spat on her as she calmly walked toward the school.

Today that school is known as Irwin Academic Center and it has become a very diverse magnet school where children are bused from all areas of Charlotte.

My grand-daughter, Penelope Mae Williams, is one of many children of color who attend the school. Unlike Dorothy, Penelope is greeted each day with welcome smiles, high fives and, pre- covid, hugs. And everyone knows her name, as she is the only child at the school who walks to school, down that same street that Dorothy Counts-Scoggins walked down all those years ago.

As the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas said, “To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature. It is to deny them the means of freedom and the rightful pursuit of happiness, and to defeat the very end of their being.”

The book Penelope is holding and which gives the photograph its name, is “Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty” by Kahran and Regis Bethencourt, with contributions by Amanda Seales.

Artist Bio

AA Degree Colby-Sawyer College
; Anthropology Major, University of Maine; 
Technical Photography, Appalachian State University
; Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, photo concentration; Producer certification, Portland Media Center.

Art Highlights: Maine Arts Journal Summer 2020, Spring 2016, Winter 2020; Portland Museum of Art Biennial, 2011; National Promotional Poster, Salt Institute for Documentary Studies 2003 Winner International Juried Competition, Print Center, Philadelphia.

Exhibition Samples: Solo Show, Lift 360, Portland; Many group shows UMVA Gallery and online, Portland Addison Woolley gallery, Portland Waynflete Alumni show, Portland Harbor Works Gallery, Cundy’s Harbor Maine Photography Show, Boothbay Lamarche Gallery, Bowdoin.

Printed Material: Maine Arts Journal, PMA Catalogue, Print Center Catalogue Poster, Salt Magazine photo essay; When Towns Had Teams, Jim Baumer, photography for book The Portland Pigeon, newspaper, primary photographer.

Member: Union of Maine Visual Artists Space Board Member.