For Immediate Release
March 28, 2022


(Williamstown, Massachusetts)—The Clark Art Institute presents a virtual talk by Deborah Willis, author of The Black Civil War Soldier, exploring the crucial role of photography in shaping African American narratives of the Civil War. Willis’s lecture, “(Re)telling Stories in Photography About The Black Civil War Soldier,” will be broadcast via Zoom and Facebook Live (@clarkartinstitute) on Saturday, April 9, at 2 pm. 

Though both the Union and Confederate armies excluded African American men from their initial calls to arms, many of the men who eventually served were black. Simultaneously, the emerging art of photography blossomed—marking the Civil War as the first conflict to be extensively documented through photographs. In her book, Willis shows how photography helped construct a national vision of blackness, war, and bondage, and uses these early photographs to unearth the hidden histories of black Civil War soldiers. Willis has compiled a captivating memoir of photographs and words and examines them together to address themes of love and longing; responsibility and fear; commitment and patriotism; and—most predominantly—African American resilience.

Willis’s talk is presented in conjunction with the Clark’s exhibition As They Saw It: Artists Witnessing War. On view in the Eugene V. Thaw Gallery of the Clark’s Manton Research Center through May 30, this exhibition presents four centuries of war imagery from Europe and the United States.

Especially for those far from the front, eyewitness imagery is crucial to understanding what may be happening on the battlefield. Yet artists’ depictions of the wrenching conditions and consequences of warfare may even transcend their historical origins to become lasting monuments to suffering and sacrifice. As They Saw It brings together a diverse selection from the Clark’s holdings: both pro- and anti-Napoleonic imagery (including Francisco de Goya’s Disasters of War); Civil War photographs and wood engravings; and multiple perspectives on World War I. The exhibition features a special selection of recently acquired photographs of Black Americans in military service, documenting the contributions of people who have long been underrepresented in the historical record.

Advance registration is required to view the Zoom transmission. Registrants will receive an email with a private Zoom link before the event. The event will also be broadcast via Facebook Live. For more information and to register, visit


The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, consisting of more than 285,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

The Clark, which has a three-star rating in the Michelin Green Guide, is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Its 140-acre campus includes miles of hiking and walking trails through woodlands and meadows, providing an exceptional experience of art in nature. Galleries are open 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday, from September through June, and daily in July and August. Advance timed tickets are strongly recommended. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, all visitors age 21 and under, and students with a valid student ID. Free admission is available through several programs, including First Sundays Free; a local library pass program; and EBT Card to Culture. For information on these programs and more, visit or call 413 458 2303. 

Visitors age five and older are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination prior to entering the Clark’s facilities and are required to wear face masks at all times while indoors, and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. For details on health and safety protocols, visit 

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