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A Story to Tell

Celebrating Black Art & Literacy in Maryland

NOVEMBER 8, 2023 –  JANUARY 5, 2024


A Story to Tell is an arts and literacy exhibition celebrating the beauty and importance of Black history, art, & literature. The exhibit features large portraits by Maryland artist Ernest Shaw and children and young adult (YA) books presented by Baltimore Read Aloud Baltimore Read Aloud is a leading bookstore that features socially conscious books by Black authors. The Banneker-Douglass Museum invites families, art lovers, and readers to explore the exhibited art and literature to build greater connections, appreciation, and understanding of Black history and heritage. 

The Artist: Ernest Shaw presents large portraits of Black American boys (elementary and teenage children). Many of the exhibited portraits depict African masks that reconnect these children to their African roots and traditions, fractured during the transatlantic slave trade. Each mask has a special meaning and is a source of empowerment and strength. In response to the systemic criminalization and exploitation of Black boys in the US, Shaw creates large, vibrant portraits to amplify their experiences, history, vulnerability, and strength. As a product of Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore School for the Arts, Morgan State University, and Howard University, Shaw recognizes the importance of using his skills and talents to teach and uplift young people in Maryland and beyond. 

The Books: The books on display are curated by Baltimore Read Aloud, a social enterprise that promotes and sells diverse books for children and adults. The Founder of Baltimore Read Aloud, Nicole Johnson, states, “I discovered that books with Black characters were hard to find at your local Barnes and Noble or independent bookstore. Not only were the experiences of Black people underrepresented on retail shelves, anyone who was not white, cis-gender, heterosexual, able-bodied, or from a Christian-based religion would have a hard time finding themselves in children’s literature…Literacy is liberation, and I hope Baltimore Read Aloud can shine a light on books that have the power to liberate through representation.” Baltimore Read Aloud is a key contributor to local literacy efforts, giving young people in Maryland the tools to read and write their own stories.

— Chanel C. Johnson, Curator

Special Thanks: Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, Banneker-Douglass Museum Foundation, Inc., Friends of the Banneker-Douglass Museum, and Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, Ernest Shaw, and Baltimore Read Aloud.

Photos from the Opening Reception & Kwanzaa Celebration