SUN. FEB 5, at 3PM | “Being Black in America: A Historical Perspective” featuring James Early, Forme
James Counts Early resigned from the Smithsonian Institution in March 2015 after thirty one years of service in various positions since first contracting as a graduate student in 1972 as a researcher in Brazil and the Caribbean for the African Diaspora Folklife Festival. He served as assistant provost for educational and cultural programs, assistant secretary for education and public service, and interim director of the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum. A long-time advocate for cultural diversity and equity issues in national and international cultural and educational institutions, his applied research explores participatory museology, cultural democracy statecraft policy, capitalist and socialist discourses in cultural policy, and Afro-Latin politics, history, and cultural democracy. He curated several Folklife Festival programs including South Africa: Crafting the Economic Renaissance of the Rainbow Nation (1999) and Sacred Sounds: Belief and Society (1997). James Early holds a B.A. in Spanish from Morehouse College and completed graduate work (A.B.D.) in Latin American and Caribbean history, with a minor in African and African American history, at Howard University. Early has also served as associate professor at Antioch College, Washington, D.C., researcher at Howard University’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and adjunct Professor American Studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He served for five years as a Humanist-Administrator at the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Program Division. He was producer, writer and host of Ten Minutes Left, a weekly radio show on WHUR-FM at Howard University, and a founding board member of TELESUR in Venezuela. He serves on numerous boards including Editorial Board International Journal of Heritage Studies, U.S. Chapter Association of Critical Heritage Studies, Institute for Policy Studies, Fundacion Amistad, Mid-Atlantic Equity Center, Real News Network, and Regional Articulation of Afro Descendants Latin America and Caribbean.Early is currently an independent consultant in Cultural Democracy and Statecraft Heritage Policy and the African Diaspora.
Rhea L. Combs is Curator of Film and Photography at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She also serves as the head of the museum’s Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA).
Prior to joining the museum, Combs taught visual culture, film, race and gender courses at Chicago State University, Lewis & Clark College and Emory University. Additionally, Combs has independently and successfully curated film exhibitions nationally and internationally for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, the National Black Programming Consortium, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, to name a few. She also worked as the assistant curator for the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta and as a pubic programs educator at the Chicago Historical Society (now Chicago Historical Museum).
Combs received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University, a Master of Arts degree from Cornell University, and a Doctorate from Emory University. Her writings have been featured in anthologies, academic journals and exhibition catalogues on range of topics including African American female filmmakers, black popular culture, visual aesthetics, filmmaking and photography.
Combs’ current exhibitions and projects, respectively, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture include the museum’s inaugural photography show, Everyday Beauty: Selections from the Photography and Film Collection, Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College, Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection of NMAAHC, the photography books series, Double Exposure, which includes Through the African American Lens: A Survey of NMAAHC’s photography collection, Civil Rights and the Struggle for Equality, African American Women, Picturing Children, and Fighting for Freedom (forthcoming, April 2017).