Black Lives Missing, 2017
Authored by Ramona M. Davis ’21 in “Black Student Activism at Davidson College“
last updated 02.09.2021
In 2017, black students organized a protest and Africana major Jade Polly created posters to be placed on prominent areas of campus. Students saw themselves as part of the Black Lives Matter movement that continues responding to the unarmed and unlawful police killings of black men. This Yearbook image depicts over ten posters reading “black lives missing” on a pillar outside of the library. Each poster has the photo, name and general information about a different black person who was murdered. These photos and posters introduce new members into the Davidson Community. The black people in these photos might have never had a chance to be accepted at Davidson, but their stories are intimately connected to the lives of black students at Davidson. No one could walk by this poster and not understand their power. The photo captures no living person, but a series of those who are dead. As this poster is displayed on the pillar of the library, these black lives are becoming a part of a tradition of black study. If Africana as a project of liberation for black people, then it must include black people who did not make it into academia.
In the Quips and Cranks Yearbook, this photo had no additional context or information, following the yearbook’s trend of allowing photos to speak for themselves. The activists behind this effort are not named; they remain largely invisible in Davidson’s archive. This photo closes the exhibition because it emphasizes the ways that black lives and our contributions are largely missing from Davidson’s narrative. Even though this photo is meant to be remembered, the story behind it cannot be. Oral histories may circulate through the community, but they must be documented to breathe life into the next generations of activists and Africana scholars.