The Color Line

African-American artists and segregation


The expression the "color line", first used in 1881 by Frederick Douglass, a former slave who became one of the great leaders of the abolitionist movement, refers to the segregation of black people in the United States as of 1865, at the end of the Civil War. This segregation continued up until 1964, when the signing of the Civil Rights Act brought an end, at least in legal terms, to all forms of discrimination. The exhibition at the musée du quai Branly and the accompanying catalogue chronicle the history of almost a century of bitter struggle by artists.

This body of work thus pays tribute to a wide variety of forms of expression, from painting to sculpture as well as photography, literature, cartoons, film and music. The Color Line provides an opportunity for visitors to (re)discover artists who were often marginalised during their time, but the importance and novelty of whom the history of American art has begun to measure in the past 30 years.

The works are divided into four chronological sections: from the Reconstruction to the First World War (1865-1918), from the advent of the New Negro to the Second World War (1918-1945), the long march towards civil rights (1945-1964), and finally from black power to the modern day (1964-2014). These are enriched with thematic inserts on music, literature and sport, as well as information on the emblematic artists of each era.


24.5 x 29.5 cm • 400 pages • 700 documents • paperback • €49
Joint publication musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac / Flammarion 2016
ISBN: 9782081355521