"Heroes": Principles of African Greatness Part 7—Free Africa Faces Forward

Join us for the fourth of 7 dispatches from "Heroes," exploring artworks from the National Museum of African Art’s permanent collection that tell the story of key heroic principles and personages in Africa’s arts and history, through art, biography, quotes, interviews, and music.

By Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Heroes: Principles of African Greatness Exhibit Entryway (2019) by Brad SimpsonSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

A long-term permanent collection installation at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art.  


Curated by Kevin D. Dumouchelle

Heroes Exhibit Banner (2019) by Sakinya WashingtonSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Be your best. This is the quest that the greatest of heroes model for us. Through their journeys, struggles, and triumphs, exceptional individuals exemplify values that we celebrate in tales of heroic accomplishment—epics that outlast heroes themselves. Africa’s history abounds with such tales.

Africa Dances (1980) by Benedict Enwonwu MBESmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Independent Africa Faces Forward

We face neither East nor West: we face forward.
—Kwame Nkrumah, Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference, 1960

Heroes concludes with a necessary focus on hope. If psychological or material struggles against occupation, colonization, and division have dominated much of the narrative to this point, the artists and heroes here who have blazed, or are blazing, a path forward—facing the future once more on their own terms—govern the concluding section.

Heroes: Principles of African Greatness - Dispatch 7 Themes (2021) by Marc BretzfelderSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Each principal in Heroes is represented by an artwork and a specific historic African person who embodies the value expressed in the selected work. In this final dispatch, we explore art and heroes who are Organizers and Voices, who Inspire us to see the Dignity and Independence of all—and who model how to be an Ally.


You can find all of our other dispatches from Heroes here.

The Ancestors Converged Again (1995) by El AnatsuiSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Organizers

 They came. They saw. They organized.

The Ancestors Converged Again

El Anatsui
b. 1944, Anyako, Volta Region, Ghana
Works in Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria
1995

Wood, tempera Purchased with funds provided by the Annie Laurie Aitken Endowment, 98-11-1

Before he was globally celebrated for his works in found metal, El Anatsui first pursued sculptural forms in ceramics and found wood. He notes, “I look at textures of my work in process and I think about the texture and grain of Africa’s history; I look at  the authentic colors of the different types of wood and they remind me of the real colors of history.” 

The Ancestors Converged Again is a relatively rare example of figurative art in wood from this Ghanaian master. Using the expressive forms of the wood he gathered, Anatsui transforms scraps of wood into embodiments of once-distant, now-present spiritual and historical figures through minimal sculptural interventions and the process of ordering and re-ordering his sculptures.

One of the most conceptually innovative elements of El Anatsui’s sculptural practice is his openness—indeed, to some extent, his insistence upon—the idea that his sculptures may be reordered and reshaped each time they are installed. 

Art, he insists, must reflect life and, in so doing, it must evolve and change to reflect the circumstances in which it is being deployed. 

With that in mind, his Ancestors may be seen in Heroes to be thinking about their roles as vanguards for future collective action. Eyes wide, taking in the troubled current moment in which they have been called together, these ancestors confer—and plan their response.

Ghana's Big Six Leaders Heroes: Principles of African Greatness Medallion (2021) by UnknownSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Ghana's "Big Six" Leaders

They organized Ghana’s first political party, channeling constructive impatience into a campaign for independence.

Ebenezer Ako-Adjei
1916–2002, b. Adjeikrom, Ghana; worked in Accra
Edward Akufo-Addo
1906–1979, b. Dodowa, Ghana; worked in Accra
William Ofori Atta
1910–1988, b. Akyem Abuakwa, Ghana; worked in Accra
J.B. Danquah
1895–1965, b. Bepong, Ghana; worked in Accra
Kwame Nkrumah
1909–1972, b. Nkroful, Ghana; worked in Accra
Emmaneul Obetsebi-Lamptey
1902–1963, b. Ode, Ghana; worked in Accra

Ghana's "Big Six" Leaders - Principles of African Greatness Intro (2019) by Michael BriggsSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Ghanaian 10 cedi note depicting the Big Six (2007)Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Unless Colonial Government is changed and a new Government of the people and their Chiefs installed at the centre immediately, the conduct of masses now completely out of control with strikes . . . will continue . . . Working Committee United Gold Coast Convention declare they are prepared and ready to take over interim Government. 

We ask in name of oppressed, inarticulate, misruled and misgoverned people and their Chiefs that Special Commissioner be sent out immediately to hand over Government to interim Government of Chief and People and to witness immediate calling of Constituent Assembly.
—United Gold Convention leaders (Accra) to Secretary of State (London), telegram, February 28, 1948

·   The ‘Big Six’ were the leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a political party founded by J.B. Danquah in 1947 to push for self-government. 


·   On Feb. 28, 1948, a peaceful demonstration in Accra for pay owed to veterans who fought for Britain in World War II was met with gunfire, killing three people. Horrified by the incident, the ‘Big Six’ called for full and immediate self-rule. They were all arrested. 

·   In prison, the group earned their collective nickname, and became a symbol for the country’s self-determination. One—Kwame Nkrumah—would use the added notoriety to build a new political party, which would eventually carry him to power.


Selections from the Heroes Playlist






Lord Kitchener – “Birth of Ghana”
Lyrics by Aldwyn Roberts (Lord Kitchener)
Lord Kitchener and His Mambo All-Stars. RCA Victor, 1956
Calypso


Selections from the Heroes Playlist







E.T. Mensah & the Tempos – “Ghana Freedom”
Lyrics by E.T. Mensah and His Tempos Band
Tempos Melodies. Decca, 1962.
Highlife

The Nasser Era and Om Kalsoum (1994) by Chant AvedissianSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Voices

Theirs were the inescapable voices of Egyptian possibilities.

The Nasser Era and Om Kalsoum

Chant Avedissian
1951–2018, b. Cairo, Egypt
Worked in Cairo
c. 1994

Mixed media on corrugated cardboard, cloth
Purchased with funds provided by the Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, 96-20-3

For the artist Chant Avedissian, who held on to a lifelong interest in the iconic images of Egyptian history, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s and Om Kalsoum’s pharaonic cultural influences filled his eyes—and ears. 

Born in Cairo to the parents of refugees from Armenia, Avedissian deployed a variety of media, including photography, costume and textile design, and the sort of stencil work seen here, to reflect upon the complexities and contradictions of his experience of Egypt. 

In this artwork, he visualizes the complicated, iconic, and unavoidable roles two larger-than-life Egyptians—Nasser and Kalsoum—played in that country’s mid-20th century.

He was the voice of Egypt’s political future, the military officer who helped overthrow the monarchy, led Egypt from 1954 until his death in 1970, nationalized the Suez Canal from British and French interests, and became an icon, however fleetingly, of secular secular pan-Arab nationalism. 

At the height of the Cold War, Gamal Abdel Nasser promoted a political philosophy of nonalignment and solidarity among formerly colonized peoples. 

She was perhaps his only true rival on the mid-century radio. “The Voice,” not just of Egypt, but of the entire Arab-speaking world, Om Kalsoum was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated vocal artists. 

Her supreme talent, musical virtuosity, and glamour made her a global celebrity as she interpreted modern and classical Arab verse through improvisation and vocal stylization. 

Sporting her trademark sunglasses and handkerchief, she stands above script that reads “سافر و شاهد” (“travel and see”), suggesting Kalsoum’s star-studded life of tours throughout the Arab world spreading, among other messages, Nasser’s central plank of Arab unity.

Gamal Nasser - Principles of African Greatness Title (2021) by Marc BretzfelderSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Gamal Abdel Nasser

He was the indomitable voice of Egypt’s revolutionary mid-century.

1918–1970, b. Alexandria, Egypt
Worked in Cairo

Gamal Abdel Nasser - Principles of African Greatness Intro (2019) by Michael BriggsSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Gamal Abdel Nasser (1950s) by Jean Dominique DalletSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Let them kill Nasser! What is Nasser but one among many? I am alive, and even if I die, all of you are Gamal Abdel Nasser!
—Gamal Abdel Nasser, after surviving an assassination attempt, 1954

· A military officer, Nasser helped to overthrow the monarchy, led Egypt from 1954 until his death in 1970, nationalized the Suez Canal from British and French interests, and became an icon of secular pan-Arab nationalism.





· Never short on ambition, Nasser saw himself as a potential leader for Arab-speaking countries, Africa, and the greater Islamic world. From 1958 to 1961, he led Egypt and Syria jointly in a United Arab Republic. 

· Nasser’s legacy remains particularly complicated—he was a global symbol of anticolonial solidarity, built the Aswan Dam, and led the industrialization of Egypt. Yet, he also ruled a police state and fought and lost two wars with Israel.


Selections from the Heroes Playlist





Om Kalsoum – “Asbah ‘andy al-an Bondoqeya/ اصبح عندى الان بندقية” [“I Now Have a Rifle”]
Lyrics by Nizar Qabbani
Wataneyat I. Mazzika Group, 1961.
Arabic folk

Om Kalsoum - Principles of African Greatness Title (2021) by Marc BretzfelderSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Om Kalsoum

Om Kalsoum, “The Star of the East,” “Egypt’s Fourth Pyramid”—she was nothing less than The Voice.
 
1898–1975, b. El Senbellawein, Egypt
Worked in Cairo and globally

Om Kalsoum - Principles of African Greatness Intro (2019) by Michael BriggsSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Om Kalsoum (1965) by UnidentifiedSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

O Nile, you have been praised by God and celebrated in the Torah. The origin of civilization around you is a fact, and its outcome is your virtue. It was born and you were its cradle . . . 

The people, who were privileged and protected over centuries, are thankful to you.
They express their gratitude to the Lord for His creation.
And may God keep on His blessings.
—“Al Nil,” Om Kalsoum signature song (lyrics by Ahmad Shawqi)

· One of the 20th century’s most celebrated global vocal artists, Kalsoum was known for her talent, musical virtuosity, and glamour.


· Kalsoum interpreted modern and classical Arab verse through improvisation and vocal stylization. She was known to riff and extend a song at considerable length if the audience’s emotions were with her.

· Throughout the century’s turmoil, Kalsoum maintained a reputation as a patriotic Egyptian and a devout Muslim—and a good friend of Nasser’s.


Selections from the Heroes Playlist





Om Kalsoum – “Qaseedat Misr/ قصيدة مصر” [“Egypt’s Poem”]
Lyrics by Ibrahim Nagy
Wataneyat II. Mazzika Group, 1965.
Arabic folk

Tom Mboya (1959-09-07) by Eliot ElisofonSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Inspiring

He led a new generation into higher education and leadership.

Mboya greets students onboard the first “Kennedy airlift"

Eliot Elisofon 
1911–1973, b. New York, N.Y. 
Worked throughout Africa, 1947–72  Nairobi, Kenya 
September 7, 1959 
Vintage silver gelatin print 
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archive

Tom Mboya was already accomplished, at the young age of 28, as the leader of a workers’ union and for his assumption of the mantle of Kenya’s nascent independence party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU). He met with then-Senator John F. Kennedy in 1959 to promote a campaign to bring hundreds of Kenyan students to the United States for higher education. 

The effort already had the support of individuals like Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and Martin Luther King Jr. Convinced by Mboya’s vision of the need to train a new generation of postcolonial leaders, the Kennedy Family Foundation agreed to fund the early “airlifts.”

Graduating at the top of his class, he met and married American student Ann Dunham. Their son, Barack H. Obama Jr. was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961.

Thomas Mboya - Principles of African Greatness Title (2021) by Marc BretzfelderSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Tom Mboya


1930–1969, b. Kilima Mbogo, Kenya

Worked in Nairobi

Tom Mboya - Principles of African Greatness Intro (2019) by Michael BriggsSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Thomas Mboya (1959) by Elio ElisofonSmithsonian National Museum of African Art


I have news for you. There is no Superman. It’s up to us.

—Tom Mboya 

Pan-Africanism is changing the arbitrary and often illogical boundaries set up by the colonial powers in their mad scramble for Africa. Many . . . are asking us what sort of governments we hope to set up when our freedom is won…

What we shall create should be . . . enriched by our ability to borrow . . . what is good from other systems, creating a synthesis of this with the best of our own systems and cultures.
—Tom Mboya, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, 1958

· A labor activist from an early age, Mboya organized his fellow Nairobi civil servants into the Kenya Local Government Workers’ Union in the early 1950s. Mboya became general secretary of the Kenya Federation of Labour, where he won an international profile by helping striking dock workers in Mombasa get a 33 percent pay raise.

· Mboya joined the nascent independence party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU). When the British banned the party and most of its leaders during the Mau Mau conflict, Mboya was entrusted with the party’s control.

· Mboya joined the nascent independence party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU). When the British banned the party and most of its leaders during the Mau Mau conflict, Mboya was entrusted with the party’s control.

· An outspoken critic of government corruption, Mboya was serving as a government minister when he was assassinated in 1969. The full story of his murder has never been determined.


Selections from the Heroes Playlist







Gabriel Omollo – “Tom Mboya”
Lyrics by Gabriel Omollo
Mr. Agoya. JoJo Records, 2014 [1969]
Benga

Curtis Mayfield – “People Get Ready”
Lyrics by Curtis Mayfield
People Get Ready. ABC-Paramount, 1965.
Soul

Africa Dances (1980) by Benedict Enwonwu MBESmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Dignity

She dances and sings her own truth, with poise and pride. 

Africa Dances

Benedict Enwonwu MBE
1917–1994, b. Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria
Worked in Umuahia, Abia State and Ife, Osun State, Nigeria, and London
From the Africa Dances series
1980
Cold-cast bronze resin
Museum purchase, 2016-15-1

Ben Enwonwu is arguably one of 20th-century Africa’s most important and influential artists. Recognized worldwide for his modernist examinations of Nigerian and pan-African ideas and images, his works by mid-century came to represent African self-determination, innovation, and excellence in an era in which the continent was finally regaining its sovereignty. 

The Africa Dances series, begun in 1949 as a response to performances observed in his home city of Onitsha, became a subject to which Enwonwu would return throughout his career. In the series of sculptures made between 1980 and 1984, the artist isolated each figure in space, imbuing their features with a liquid flow that captured the essence of a body in motion. 

This piece is a cold-cast resin predecessor to a 1982 bronze casting of Africa Dances. Identical in form to the later bronze, the cold-cast resin version was likely cast, because of its material, by the artist. Enwonwu also likely painted the surface of this piece in order to understand how the light would shine across its form.

This image of a beautiful, confident young woman striding with purpose and grace on a global stage is, of course, necessarily allegorical. But, in both its symbolic intention and formal realization, this sculpture thus evokes the iconic role that a woman like Miriam Makeba—“Mama Africa,” the voice of a generation fighting for, and winning, self-determination—plays in the memory of an age in which Africa danced back into freedom.

Miriam Makeba Heroes: Princinples of African Greatness Medallion (1969) by UnknownSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Miriam Makeba

Mama Africa, she was the voice of a continent struggling for—and winning—freedom and dignity.

1932–2008, b. Prospect Township, Johannesburg, South Africa
Worked globally

Miriam Makeba - Principles of African Greatness Intro (2019) by Michael BriggsSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Miriam Makeba (1969) by UnidentifiedSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

I do not sing politics. I merely sing the truth.
—Miriam Makeba, as quoted in the documentary Mama Africa, 2011


Miriam Makeba
Unidentified photographer, 1969
© Binder/ullstein bild/Getty Images

· Raised in Sophiatown, a township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, Makeba rose to prominence singing in South Africa in the early 1950s. Her appearance in an anti-apartheid documentary caught the attention of Harry Belafonte, who invited her to the  United States in 1959.

· In the U.S., Makeba recorded a large number of songs in Xhosa, Zulu, and English. She became a global celebrity and one of the continent’s most recognized faces and voices, bringing African music to many Western audiences for the first time. She was the first African artist to win a Grammy (1965) with Belafonte.

· The South African government refused her reentry to the country in 1960 and banned her records and revoked her passport in 1963. Makeba, meanwhile, became a vocal and highly visible critic of the apartheid regime, both in her songs and in her growing role as a civil rights activist.

· After marrying Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael in 1968, Makeba and her husband left the U.S., first for Guinea. She would tour Europe and Africa in the decades that followed, performing at a number of new African nations’ independence celebrations.

· Nelson Mandela invited Makeba to return to South Africa in 1991—the freedom she had called for had finally come to her homeland. She was named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in 1999 and continued to speak out for humanitarian causes.

Selections from the Heroes Playlist




Miriam Makeba – “Pata Pata”
Lyrics by Miriam Makeba and Jerry Ragovoy
Pata Pata. Reprise, 1967.
Mbaqanga/Afropop

Miriam Makeba – “Qongqothwane (The Click Song)”
Miriam Makeba. RCA Victor, 1960.
Xhosa folk

Miriam Makeba – “Mbube”
Lyrics by Solomon Linda
Miriam Makeba. RCA Victor, 1960.
Mbaqanga

Miriam Makeba & the Skylarks – “Sophiatown Is Gone”
Lyrics by Gibson Kente
Miriam Makeba & the Skylarks, Vol. 2. Gallo Music Publishing, 1959.
South African jazz

Factory-printed cloth (Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah) (1957) by Unidentified artistSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Independent

Strike a fashionable blow for freedom!

Factory-printed cloth (Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah)

Unidentified artist
Ghana
c. 1957
Cotton, dye
Gift of Donald A. Theuer and Lilburne Theuer Senn, 2002-9-32

The official portrait of Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of the independent republic of Ghana, is the central focal point of this commemorative cloth. Although Nkrumah was not Asante, he chose to wear the red, yellow, and green colors—associated with both Asante kente cloth, worn widely in Ghana, and with unconquered Ethiopia—as a symbol of his leadership and of pan-African pride. 

In addition to Nkrumah’s official portrait, the cloth also includes the seal and motto of the new nation (“Freedom and Justice”) as well as the date of independence, March 6, 1957, for which the textile was likely originally produced.

European traders introduced factory-printed cloths to African markets in the 19th century. Early fabrics were based on Indonesian batiks. As advancements in photographic reproduction developed, portraits began to appear on cloth. 

Known as “fancy” cloths, these printed textiles became very popular in the 1950s and 1960s, when many African nations attained independence, and remain important historical documents of an era filled with new possibilities. 

Kwame Nkrumah Heroes: Principles of African Greatness Medallion (1958) by Ghana Information ServicesSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Kwame Nkrumah

Osagyefo (“Redeemer,” in Fante), he was a symbol of independent Africa’s great expectations—and dimmed hopes.


1909–1972, b. Nkroful, Ghana
Worked in Accra



Kwame Nkrumah - Principles of African Greatness Intro (2019) by Michael BriggsSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah (1958) by Ghana Information ServicesSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

We face neither East nor West: we face forward.
—Kwame Nkrumah, Commonwealth 
Prime Minister’s Conference, 1960


Commemorating Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah’s visit to USA and Canada 
Photograph by Ghana Information Services, c. 1958
EEPA Postcard Collection, GH-20-09
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
© Ghana Information 

· Breaking with more moderate politicians seeking eventual independence, Nkrumah formed the Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP) as a platform through which to organize a campaign of strikes, protests, and nonviolent noncooperation against the British. 

· Nkrumah’s CPP won early elections under British rule and, when independence came in 1957, he became the new nation’s first prime minister. Ghana was the first occupied African nation south of the Sahara to win its freedom.

· Nkrumah was an outspoken advocate for pan-Africanism, as both a cultural and political platform, from which he anticipated Ghana would lead the rest of the continent from occupation. He became a global symbol for Black liberation.

· Nkrumah’s government became increasingly authoritarian. He won a referendum in 1960 that made Ghana a republic and Nkrumah president (he became president-for-life in 1964).

· Ghana’s army staged a coup in 1966, ousting Nkrumah from power. He lived the remainder of his life in exile. Ghana subsequently faced a series of intermittent, disruptive military coups in the following three decades.





E.T. Mensah & the Tempos – “Kwame Nkrumah”
Lyrics by E.T. Mensah and His Tempos Band
King of Highlife. RetroAfric, 2015 [by 1960]
Highlife

Factory-printed cloth (Malcolm X) (detail) (1967/2000) by Unidentified artistSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Ally

The fashion for Pan-African solidarity endures.

Factory-printed cloth featuring Malcolm X (detail)

Unidentified artist
Senegal
Late 20th century

Cotton, dye
The Wil and Irene Petty Collection, 2008-5-62

Sotiba, a textile manufacturer in Dakar, Senegal, made several versions—some with gold, some without—of this fancy cloth with a photographic engraving of American activist Malcolm X.

It has been suggested that this version may have been intended for the foreign market because its gold sometimes turns black when worn in Senegal’s hot, humid climate. Commemorative cloth is often bought to save—as an insurance policy, a long-term savings certificate, or a souvenir—rather than to be cut up and worn.

Whether intended as a souvenir or a fashion statement, a cloth like this offers its bearer an intimate connection to the image of Malcolm X. With it, you can literally wrap yourself in the aura of this global icon for civil rights, social justice, and Black pride and liberation. 

Malcolm X - Principles of African Greatness Title (2021) by Marc BretzfelderSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Malcolm X

El Hajji Malik el-Shabazz, "Brother Malcolm," blazed a global path of intellectual and spiritual discovery that inspired millions.

1925–1965, b. Omaha, Neb.
Worked in New York and globally

Malcolm X (1964) by Ed FordSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Malcolm X

Photograph by Ed Ford, 1964 New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress 

. . . During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass—while praying to the same God—with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. 

And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the “white” Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana. We were truly all the same . . . I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man . . .
—Malcolm X, in letter from Mecca following his hajj, 1964

· Malcolm X quickly became one of the Nation of Islam’s most prominent leaders and public advocates, articulating positions of Black racial pride while giving voice to a generation of Black Americans’ frustrations during the civil rights movement. He was the intellectual leader of the United States’ growing Black Power movement.  

· Malcolm Little converted to the Nation of Islam, an African-American organization that combined Islamic teachings with Black nationalism, while incarcerated between 1946 and 1952. He adopted the new surname “X.”

· Malcolm X publicly fell out with the Nation of Islam’s leadership in 1963. He credited his hajj to Mecca the following year as a second conversion, taking the name El Hajji Malik El-Shabazz. 

· Newly awakened to a sense of global solidarity with brothers and sisters throughout the formerly colonized world, Malcolm became an advocate of pan-Africanism—arguing that African Americans’ struggles intersected with global struggles for liberation.   

· Malcolm X was assassinated while speaking in Harlem on February 21, 1965. Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

· His memoir, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), became a global touchstone—the story of a man’s journey from a troubled childhood to human rights activist and global icon of Black solidarity.

Selections from the Heroes Playlist





Nina Simone – “Revolution (Pts. 1 & 2)”
Lyrics by Nina Simone and Weldon Irvine
To Love Somebody. RCA Records, 1969.
Blues

Sam Cooke – “A Change Is Gonna Come”
Lyrics by Sam Cooke
Ain’t That Good News. RCA Victor, 1964.
Soul

Bob Marley & the Wailers – “Get Up, Stand Up”
Lyrics by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh
Burnin’. Tuff Gong/Island Records, 1973.
Reggae

Credits: Story

Curated by Kevin D. Dumouchelle
National Museum of African Art
Smithsonian Institution

Story Design by Marc Bretzfelder
Office of the Chief Information Officer
Smithsonian Institution

Photos of El Anatsui, and The Nasser Era and Om Kalsoum, by Franko L. Khoury, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution

Photos of African Dances, and Nkrumah and Malcolm X factory-printed cloths, by Brad Simpson, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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