Dawoud Bey “Night Coming Tenderly, Black”

Artist Statement

The Underground Railroad is shrouded as much in myth as it is in fact. The Underground Railroad related project Night Coming Tenderly, Black is a visual reimagining of the movement of fugitive slaves through the Cleveland and Hudson, Ohio landscape as they approached Lake Erie and the final passage to freedom in Canada. Using both real and imagined sites these landscape photographs seek to recreate the spatial and sensory experiences of those moving furtively through the darkness.

These photographs are also a material conversation with the photographs of Roy DeCarava, in which the black subject often emerges out of the darkness of the photographic print; that material darkness here being a metaphor for an enveloping physical darkness, a passage to liberation that was a protective cover for the escaping African American slaves. A final touchstone for the work is the title, which references Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variations,” with its final refrain: “Night coming tenderly/Black like me”

Dawoud Bey

The Underground Railroad is shrouded as much in myth as it is in fact. The Underground Railroad related project Night Coming Tenderly, Black is a visual reimagining of the movement of fugitive slaves through the Cleveland and Hudson, Ohio landscape as they approached Lake Erie and the final passage to freedom in Canada. Using both real and imagined sites these landscape photographs seek to recreate the spatial and sensory experiences of those moving furtively through the darkness.

These photographs are also a material conversation with the photographs of Roy DeCarava, in which the black subject often emerges out of the darkness of the photographic print; that material darkness here being a metaphor for an enveloping physical darkness, a passage to liberation that was a protective cover for the escaping African American slaves. A final touchstone for the work is the title, which references Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variations,” with its final refrain: “Night coming tenderly/Black like me”

Dawoud Bey

The Underground Railroad is shrouded as much in myth as it is in fact. The Underground Railroad related project Night Coming Tenderly, Black is a visual reimagining of the movement of fugitive slaves through the Cleveland and Hudson, Ohio landscape as they approached Lake Erie and the final passage to freedom in Canada. Using both real and imagined sites these landscape photographs seek to recreate the spatial and sensory experiences of those moving furtively through the darkness.

These photographs are also a material conversation with the photographs of Roy DeCarava, in which the black subject often emerges out of the darkness of the photographic print; that material darkness here being a metaphor for an enveloping physical darkness, a passage to liberation that was a protective cover for the escaping African American slaves. A final touchstone for the work is the title, which references Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variations,” with its final refrain: “Night coming tenderly/Black like me”

Dawoud Bey

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