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King photo donated to Paul Jones Collection

Paul Jones (right) holds the photo of Martin Luther King Jr. by photographer Ben Fernandez donated to the Paul R. Jones Collection by art professors Ray Nichols (left) and Bill Deering (second from left). Janis Tomlinson (center), director of University of Delaware Museums, and Amalia Amaki, curator of the Paul R. Jones Collection and assistant professor of Black American Studies, joined the festivities.
5:19 p.m., March 30, 2004--A photograph of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. is the latest addition to the Paul R. Jones Collection of African-American art at the University of Delaware, thanks to a donation by two professors in the Department of Fine Arts and Visual Communications.

Benedict Fernandez shot the picture of King in a pensive mood April 15, 1967, moments before King spoke to an estimated 500,000 people outside the United Nations in New York and declared that the war in Vietnam was racist. King was assassinated April 4, 1968.

Fernandez, former head of the Department of Photography at the Parsons School of Design in New York, gave the picture to Bill Deering, assistant professor of visual communication at UD, 10 years ago for a charity auction. There was no sufficient bid so Deering kept the picture.

Jones, an Atlanta entrepreneur and one of the nation’s leading private collectors of works by African-American artists, accepted the donation from Deering and Raymond Nichols, professor of art at UD, during an informal ceremony March 29 in Mechanical Hall, the newly renovated building that will house the collection.

Deering said he decided to donate the picture to the collection after he pulled it out last month to discuss African-American history with his 7-year-old daughter, Charlotte.

“I was having a discussion with my daughter about Black History Month,” Deering said during the ceremony. “I told her that if she was going to listen to hip hop and rap, she’s got to have a little history. This was part of that story.

“It felt right,” Deering said of the donation. “I think it was appropriate that it come to the collection. It can be enjoyed by a lot of people other than just sitting in my collection in a flat file. It’s come to a good home.”

Jones said the donation was a tangible example of the support his collection enjoys from the Department of Art, “one of the nearest and dearest partners.”

“I have been particularly strengthened in my resolve to bring the collection to the University as a result of the friendship that has developed between myself and the president, Dr. David Roselle,” Jones said. “It takes strong leadership and vision to recognize not only the immediate impact but the future impact the collection will have on the art world, affecting art history. The art world will never be the same as a result of what is going on here at the University of Delaware.”

Nichols said the picture is a great addition to the collection, which he described as a rich teaching resource.

“It’s going to give us something that we didn’t have access to,” Nichols said. “It’s going to make us much more aware of the African-American contribution to design, and we are going to contribute to that knowledge. I think we are just starting to have a sense of what kind of value this will have.”

Amalia Amaki, curator of the Paul R. Jones Collection and assistant professor of Black American Studies, said the photograph is symbolic of the diversity of the collection and its value to a variety of disciplines, including history, political science, international issues and religion.

With more than 1,500 pieces, the Paul R. Jones Collection is one of the oldest and most complete holdings of African-American art in the world. Jones donated the collection to UD three years ago. A major exhibition of works from the collection will be displayed in Mechanical Hall and Old College beginning in the fall.

Article by Martin Mbugua
Photo by Kathy Atkinson

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