Songs of My People was conceived by D. Michael Cheers (a photographer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker), Dudley M. Brooks (an award-winning photographer), and Eric Easter (a writer, producer, and media consultant). Their exhibition constitutes the first major project directed by New African Visions, Inc., a non-profit organization founded by the three men to promote a balanced view of the African American experience through the visual arts. In June 1990, Cheers, Brooks, and Easter invited over fifty prominent African American photographers to participate in their vision. The eclectic mix of innovative young photographers and seasoned veterans included four Pulitzer Prize winners: John H. White, Ozier Muhammad, Mathew Lewis, and Keith Williams.
The selection of photographs here coincides with this year’s (2007) larger theme “From Slavery to Freedom.” Within these photos, generations of African Americans are united by struggle, success, pain, and hope. The images reflect trials and triumphs of the past, while celebrating new leaders and the potential of young people to shape the future. Together, these works form a powerful and enduring portrait of African Americans at the end of the twentieth century.
Dr. D. Michael Cheers, co-founder of New African Visions, Inc., donated the entire collection of more than 150 photographs to the Museum of Art and Archaeology. Cheers is a native of St. Louis and also an alumnus of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. The original exhibition was organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and developed for circulation by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. From 1992 to 1994, Songs of My People traveled throughout the nation and abroad. The exhibition received great critical acclaim during its worldwide tour.