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Out the E

Date: September 19th, 2024
Time: 12:00 – 1:00 PM CT
Cost: FREE
Location: Columbia College Chicago Student Center | 754 S Wabash Ave

Join us for a talk by Harlan Bozeman, as he gives an in depth review of his photographic practice based in Elaine, Arkansas for the past four years. 

Out the E  is a photographic project about the rural Arkansas Delta town of Elaine. In 1919, as cotton prices skyrocketed, Black sharecroppers—trapped in a vortex of debt and underpayment—began to organize for better conditions and fair payment. On September 30, a meeting of these farmers was disrupted by several white men, one of whom was killed. Hours later, spurred on by a “Black insurrection,” a white mob—including federal troops—descended on the area. Two days later, more than 500 Black people were killed in what is considered to be the deadliest racial conflict in the U.S.

In Elaine today, there are some who don’t want to remember the events that began that day in 1919. There are others who have to talk about it. And there are others still, who believe it never happened. The racial divide is as strong as ever in Elaine, creating a culture of silence and negligence in this small community that has yet to truly heal.

Law and way of life operate differently in this region and more than a century later, most of the town’s black residents live in a familiar cycle where they lack sufficient resources. In 2005, the town’s school district closed, forcing children to attend school in a town about an hour away. Arkansas Public Schools do not teach students about the Elaine massacre, leaving a majority of children without the knowledge of this tragedy that occurred in their own town.

Having a taxable job forces you to lose government assistance, and government assistance prevents you from getting above the poverty line. The only employment opportunities in Elaine are a few local businesses or working on soybean farms, and the farming jobs tend to be offered exclusively to white people. To make money or discover opportunities, you have to leave.

As more Americans are grappling with the country’s history of extracting wealth and resources from Black communities, Out the E is necessary to bring attention to a town and community that has long been forgotten.

Out the E, is currently on view at Filter Space through October 19th, 2024.

Harlan Bozeman is a photo-based artist who has lived throughout the American South for most of his life. His research-driven practice focuses on the erasure of Black legacies and how this exploration influences one’s personhood. Working on long-term, socially engaging projects, he positions himself as a collaborator and facilitator while producing photographs that are honest in intention and combat established narratives. He earned his MFA from the University of Arkansas, a BA in Journalism from DePaul University, and recently attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

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