Is It Too Much? Kara Walker Drawing That Depicts Sex Between White Man And Black Female Slave Sparks Outrage

January 21, 2013  |  

If you know anything about artist Kara Walker, you know that she pushes the envelope with her contemporary work. I’ve been a fan of her silhouette art for years, which often depicts the complexities of race relations, gender issues and black life in general in very interesting ways. After she was featured in an issue of Vogue explaining her work years ago, I’ve been a follower of it. But a recent creation, depicting the reconstruction era, the K.K.K, and the effects of Jim Crow laws, had people at the Newark Public Library, where it was presented, up in arms. If you can see in the far right corner of the picture, a black woman is drawn giving oral sex to a white man, and this interesting detail had people, employees of the library especially, asking for it to be covered. According to the New Jersey Ledger, the image went up during the holidays. However, those who complained didn’t think the art was appropriate at the time, so after much fuss was made, the library covered up the image due to pressure.

Luckily, after much discussion, staffers and library officials were able to sit down and discuss the piece and agreed to finally let it be uncovered. For those who still aren’t too sure about it, Walker will be invited to the Newark Public Library to discuss her work, the importance of artistic freedom and more, according to the Daily Mail. Clement A. Price, a library trustee and professor at Rutgers, told the NJ-Ledger that despite people’s disapproval of the image, and confusion as to why such a controversial piece of work would be put in the public library, Price says there’s no better place for it:

“The library should be a safe harbor for controversies of all types, and those controversies can be dealt with in the context of what is known about art, about literature, democracy and freedom. There’s no better venue in Newark where such a powerful and potential controversial drawing should be mounted.”

Ironically, many of Walker’s popular silhouettes have been featured in libraries across the country, so it’s very interesting that now her work would be deemed inappropriate for such a place all of a sudden. I think if you understand the point of the whole drawing, you’ll probably see nothing wrong with the sexual imagery in the right corner. However, if that’s the only thing you see when you look at Walker’s drawing, then it’s understandable that you might take issue with it. But that’s a shame, because if you only look at the sexual encounter between these two, you’re missing out on the whole message the picture is trying to get out there: this is the history of us as a people, and while it’s in the past, its ugliness is definitely not forgotten.

After checking out the drawing, which definitely has a lot going on, do you think people overreacted about it? Or does it not really fit in a public library?




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  • Priya Bansal

    That’s the point. People are forgetting that it’s the whites who made black society the way it is today. We need to make sure people don’t forget. That’s the only way to insure society will get better and learn from its mistakes.

  • Dichu eba realy lub mehSteebie

    Even though we aren’t there anymore, things like this certainly did happen so it isn’t a lie. Its easier for people to read about in a book but for it to be so in your face makes people (mostly whites) uncomfortable. They need this.

  • Just another means for blk/w to get blk/m to view themselves as the “PROPERTY” of blk/w.

  • Controversial bad art is still bad art, no matter how many museums choose to exihbit it.

  • N i g g e r can’t draw worth a crap. Must be that opposable thumb.

  • IllyPhilly

    I’m not cultured enough. Is this like an allegory for exploitation of the Black race past and present by the White man? IMO we need to focus on the people of color acting like fools and allowing the exploitation.

  • Pingback: Outrage as library displays controversial drawing of black female slave having sex with white man | Mail Online « Habari Gani, America!()

  • word

    I see nothing is the truth and to be honest people don’t like to be exposed to the monsters there were…you did it, it was a very real time in our history don’t sugar coat it!

    • get real

      You can’t be this stupid.

  • Lexi

    My only concern is that children could potentially see it. Even if it’s in the adult section of the library, children could see it if they’re following their parents around.

    That being said, I think it is very important to show such work and have a conversation about these issues.

  • Mel

    I think people are supposed to be disturbed by it. But these kinds of things happened… and frankly people should know that

    • get real

      You and a few others have got to be white men. Because I don’t care how much you worship white men, no blk woman will ever say anything like this.

  • get real

    Absolutely disgusting.

  • get real

    Madame Noire

    You shouldn’t even let that disgusting comment by Bluekisses post here. I mean are you so down with WM/BW relations that you say something like that? (you meaning in general)

  • get real

    Anything that promotes WM/BW you women love. Even if it’s something disgusting as slavery and black being raped.

  • bluekissess

    It just goes to show how people can get uncomfortable about the truth. She should just keep drawing. I love it.

  • espressobean

    Hmm…I have mixed opinions. It is very profound and tells an honest story. However the library should’ve known that Kara Walker’s work is graphic in nature and people will make a fuss.

  • it’s disturbing but it’s the truth.

  • Candacey Doris

    The library is the right place for it! Why shouldn’t this information be put up where you can actually learn about what happened? Why should it be covered up like it didn’t happen?