In his 1952 novel, The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison’s unnamed protagonist experiences the restrictions imposed by white society—and his rejection from it—as a vanishing. He is a “man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquid,” and yet, he says, “I am invisible … because people refuse to see me.” In response to historic erasure, this virtual exhibition illuminates several African-American figures and their impact on our nation’s history. Featuring poets like Phillis Wheatley, who spent her young life as a slave, and Langston Hughes, as well as change-makers and politicians such as Frederick Douglass and Michelle Obama, these works assert African-American presence and importance via portraiture. —C.J.F.
National Portrait Gallery 8th St NW & F St NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States Get Directions »