Clementine Hunter wasn’t worried about what anybody thought of her. There were more important things taking up her time and attention. But there was also much more to her than white people thought.
She worked on a plantation so cruel and racist it inspired the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin!” All she was good for, according to her captors, was picking cotton and cleaning up after white folk. But then something happened to change her life – and ours.
The plantation where she worked began to host white artists from the nearby city. One of them left behind some supplies, so Hunter cleaned them, and started painting what she saw in her own way.
But there was something incredible and unexpected about her paintings.
Unlike normal so-called “art,” defined by white standards, she painted everyday Black life! From washing, to cooking, to attending funerals, her paintings gave voice to the stories of our people, regardless of what white art critics thought.
Before long, it was exactly this irreverence that made her famous! Today, her paintings are extremely valuable and even inform the standards of other artists.
As Hunter’s innovative work demonstrated, our ability to share our stories is important to understanding our history and our culture. Her work allowed her to survive and it continues to teach us today. We must never allow racist ideology to define what is art, sacred, or reflective of Black experiences!