The Living Thinkers Project
Thinkers: An Autobiography of Black Women in the Ivory Tower

Video Installations

Living Thinkers – Harriet Jacobs’ Attic (installed at Emerson College, Boston, MA, 2011), Living Thinkers- Harriet Jacobs’ Attic 2 (installed at Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT, 2012) and Living Thinkers – Harriet Jacobs’ Attic 3 (exhibited at Connecticut College, New London, CT, 2013) are two video installations and one exhibit exploring real and imagined material culture of the lives of contemporary Black women who teach in American universities

 Using interviews from women on campuses across the country and archival visuals associated with Black women’s education and cultural traditions, this project creates a visual idea of black intellectual women’s journeys from girls to women. With the use of media projection, set design, lighting and storytelling within the installation, this project presents new creative, visual and intellectual perspectives about the lived experiences of African American women intellectuals, past and present.

 My vision for the installations and exhibit was based the true story of a fugitive enslaved woman Harriet Ann Jacobs (pen name Linda Brent) detailed in her autobiographical narrative titled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. For seven years Harriet Ann Jacobs hid in her grandmother’s attic to escape her master.  As an enslaved girl, Harriet by law was not allowed to learn to read and write, but with the help of her mistress, she learned to read and write.  As a result, she was able to bear witness, write and preserve her autobiographical testimony for generations that followed.  I imagine the physical and psychological privation of the smothering quarters; and yet I imaging all of her hopes and dreams squeezing in the dusty corners. My exhibit, with no respect to historical time, uses Harriet Jacobs’ attic as a metaphor for Black women’s experiences in the ivory tower.  It imagines the tangible cultural artifacts (signs and symbols of black girlhood and womanhood) stored in real attics and the intangible attitudes and ideas that black women store in the attics of our minds and spirits. The women interviewed for the Living Thinkers Project inherited Harriet Jacobs desire to read and write and to use the power to do so to bear witness to her lived experience as Black and Woman in America.