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Harlan Bozeman

Festival Reception: September 20th | 5 – 8 PM
Exhibition Dates: September 6th – October 19th, 2024

In conjunction with the 2024 Filter Photo Festival, Filter Photo is pleased to present, Out the E, a solo exhibition of work by Harlan Bozeman.

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.

About the Artist

Harlan Bozeman is a photo-based artist and educator 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 aim to combat established anti-Black narratives with fact and speculation.

He earned his MFA in Studio Art from the University of Arkansas, a BA in Journalism from DePaul University, and recently attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His work has been featured in The Atlantic, British Journal of Photography, Der Grief, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Bozeman is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Photography at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

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