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Photo by Bob Martuch
By Ruth Mancina

On February 4, 2012, the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History will open two exhibits featuring African American portraits. Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits is from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and features 69 photographs of famous African Americans from all sectors of society.

The second display will be developed by Castle Museum staff and focuses on local African Americans who have made a difference. Making an Impact: Portraits of Saginaw’s African American Community will include fascinating video interviews to accompany the photos and text panels.

Let Your Motto Be Resistance is an intriguing display that highlights individuals whose passion, determination and talent played an influential role in shaping notions of race and status over the past 150 years. It will be at the Castle Museum through April 29, 2012.

The exhibition's title was inspired by the rallying cry of celebrated abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) who challenged the "slaves of the United States of America" to rise up and emancipate themselves. "Let your motto be resistance!," he exclaimed. "Resistance! Resistance! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance!"

The portrait subjects come from many sectors of the African American community, from Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Edmonia Lewis, to W.E.B. Du Bois, Lorraine Hansberry, and Wynton Marsalis. Among the featured photographers who employ a variety of strategies to create their powerful images are Mathew Brady, Berenice Abbott, James VanDerZee, Doris Ulmann, Edward Weston, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, and Carl Van Vechten.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play.

Grants Make Exhibits Possible

The Castle Museum of Saginaw County History has received two grants to assist in additional programming for its upcoming exhibit, Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

The first grant is from the Smithsonian Community Grant Program, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, and will be used to develop and implement public programming related to Let Your Motto Be Resistance. The grant will be used to pay for videotaping and production and advertising and marketing of a companion exhibit developed by the Castle Museum called Making an Impact: Portraits of Saginaw’s African American Community.

The Smithsonian Community Grant program, funded by MetLife Foundation and administered by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), is used to strengthen the connections between museums nationwide and their communities. The grants allow exhibitors to enhance current program offerings or to create a new program suited to the topic of the SITES exhibition that they are hosting.

The second grant the Museum received was from the Saginaw Community Foundation and its Senior Citizen Enrichment Fund. Monies from this grant will be used to develop and implement public programming related to Let Your Motto Be Resistance. Grant monies also will be used to help pay for the cost of the “We are grateful to organizations like the Smithsonian and the Saginaw Community Foundation for providing us with financial support so that we can create a companion exhibit to Let Your Motto Be Resistance,” said Ken Santa, President and CEO of the Castle Museum.

“In addition, some of this funding will allow us to provide programming that will give people in our community an engaging and educational activity at no cost,” Santa noted.

The Historical Society of Saginaw County is committed to serving the community by telling the continuing story of the people of the Saginaw region through exploration, preservation, and presentation of their historical and cultural heritage.

The Castle Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Historical Society of Saginaw County is committed to serving the community by telling the continuing story of the people of the Saginaw region through exploration, preservation, and presentation of their historical and cultural heritage.

© Ruth Mancina, 2012