Major new Harlem Renaissance exhibition opens Sept. 13

By Molly Minturn | September 7, 2023


“Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance” banner

Guest post by Holly Robertson, Curator of University Library Exhibitions

One hundred years ago, the artistic and political revolutions of the Harlem Renaissance were in full swing. The unmistakable sounds, images, words, and conventions of the era indelibly shaped American culture.

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the University of Virginia Library will open its major new exhibition: “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance” in the Main Gallery of the Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library. 

Featuring the visionary works of writers, artists, and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance, this exhibition examines the creative and intellectual pursuits that defined Black American identity and political consciousness. The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is fortunate to hold a wide selection of influential books, magazines, illustrations, and manuscripts by these Harlem Renaissance creators. 

We’ll celebrate this retrospective throughout the building with an open-house style event starting at 5:30 p.m. that will feature live music from the Charlottesville Jazz Congregation, great food, and gallery talks. Art in conversation with Harlem Renaissance poetry — part of our Arts Council grant project “As Big As We Make It!” — will be on display in the Main Gallery. 

This event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required but register to let us know you’re coming, to stay updated on event details, and especially if you’d like free parking in the Central Grounds Garage. 

 Exhibition Opening

  • “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance”
  • Wednesday, September 13 — 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Harrison/Small — 170 McCormick Road 
  • Register for more details and free parking

Take a look at some preview photos of the exhibition below. All photography by Stacey Evans.

Main studio gallery space featuring works by James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B. Du Bois.
“Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance” features works by writer and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson and W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the founders of the NAACP and author of “The Souls of Black Folk.”
Main gallery exhibition space featuring works by Claude McKay and Langston Hughes
Here, the exhibition focuses on works by Jamaican American poet Claude McKay and American writer Langston Hughes, perhaps best known for his 1920 poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
Main gallery exhibition space featuring the music of James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson
This corner of the exhibition examines the music of brothers James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, who together composed the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”