Wendel A. White
Fellow: Awarded 2003
Field of Study: Photography
Competition: US & Canada
Wendel A. White was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in New York City, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. He was introduced to photography as a high school student at Montclair High School, Montclair, New Jersey. He was awarded a B.F.A. in photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York and an M.F.A. in photography from the University of Texas at Austin.
His work has been included in various museum and corporate collections, individual and group exhibitions, and publications. In January 2003 the Noyes Museum of Art mounted a retrospective exhibition of the Small Towns, Black Lives project, including thirteen years of images and an exhibition catalogue of the same title. The exhibition traveled to various venues through 2007.
He has received various awards and fellowships including Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts in 1993 and 2009 and the 2005 Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts grant.
Mr. White has served on the board of directors for the Society for Photographic Education and was elected board chair from 1996 to 1999. He has also served on the Kodak Educational Advisory Council and NJ Save Outdoor Sculpture. He is currently a board member of various cultural organizations including the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, New Jersey Black Culture and Heritage Foundation, and the Atlantic City Historical Museum.
His interest in electronic media led to the creation of a web-based presentation of the Small Towns, Black Lives project that went on-line in 1995 as a website called The Cemetery (the images are now included in Small Towns, Black Lives at blacktowns.org.) The site included the photographs and text plus hypertext links to images of the archival documents that were used to construct a narrative for a black community that no longer existed in Port Republic. One of his current projects, Schools for the Colored, is an extension of the Small Towns, Black Lives portfolio as a survey of the architecture and landscape of segregated education before and during the Jim Crow era.. During 2005 and 2006 he traveled to photograph in a community of African Americans living in Israel’s Negev desert. Images from Village of Peace: An African American Community in Israel were recently included in Transition magazine (Vol. 97), 2007, published by the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
Schools for the Colored
In W. E. B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk he describes an early school experience: "... I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil."
Schools for the Colored is an extension of the ideas that formed the project Small Towns, Black Lives, in that; it is a continuation of my journey through the African American landscape. I began making photographs of historically African American school buildings during the very first weeks of the Small Towns, Black Lives project more than seventeen years ago. In Schools for the Colored I began to pay attention to the many structures and sites (also making photographs of places where segregated schools once stood) that operated as segregated schools.
The current project is a survey of the places that were connected to the historic system of racially segregated schools (broadly defined as “Jim Crow” segregation; in its various forms of de jure or de facto segregation) established at the southern boundaries of the northern United States. My particular interest is in the regions of the northern “free” states that bordered the slave states (sometimes known as the Up-South, just over the line to freedom) as regions of unique concentrations of black settlements during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Schools for the Colored is the representation of my effort to memorialize these sites. The architecture and geography of America’s Apartheid (Jim Crow), in the form of a system of “colored schools” within the landscape of southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois is the central concern of this project.
Prints in this portfolio are pigment inkjet on 100% rag content, 310GSM paper. The image sizes are approximately 13.3” x 20” on a 20” x 24” sheet.