January’s Fourth Friday in downtown Fayetteville played host to the opening reception of the Black History Month exhibit from the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum, entitled “It Is Well With My Soul.” The exhibit features the art and history of African-American cemeteries in Cumberland County and is set to run Jan. 26 – Feb. 24 at the Arts Council Gallery on Hay Street.
The exhibit’s opening and reception were well attended. The Arts Council Gallery saw steady attendance throughout the evening as patrons were able to peruse the exhibit’s six sections: “A Place of Remembrance,” “Historic African American Cemeteries and Churchyards,” “Gone but Not Forgotten,” “Symbolism” and “They Left a Mark.” According to the director of the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum, Bruce Daws, the reaction to the gallery has been favorable, and museum staff have received many positive remarks from attendees.
Each of the six sections is composed of photographs by Albert J. Fadel as well as narrative panels providing an overview and historical context for the images. The exhibit features photographs of handcrafted grave markers created locally and without the influence of commercial norms – a practice that resulted in a unique artistic expression. Additionally, due to the heavy influence religion played in the African-American community, there is an exploration of biblical messages and symbols that adorned local grave markers.
“It Is Well With My Soul” emphasizes Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s place in African-American history and seeks to tell the stories of the area’s many important African-American citizens. The exhibit features the history of the second-oldest chartered church in Fayetteville, which was founded by an African-American minister. The exhibit also tells the stories of 19th-century doctors, policemen, firemen and riverboat captains. Additionally, a significant portion of the gallery’s wall-space is dedicated to the military service of those people whose gravesites are features, including several Fayetteville-area African- Americans who fought in the American Revolution.
Visitors to the gallery will also find an installation of art from the Fayetteville-Cumberland Youth Council. According to Daws, “The Youth Council assisted in many areas of the exhibit work and were extremely helpful and professional. With the artwork, they had a free hand working under their supervisor Crystal Glover with Parks and Recreation.”
“It Is Well With My Soul” has been in the works for quite some time, according to museum staff. The decision to host the exhibit at the Arts Council was an easy one as it covers the history of the area through the specific art of gravestone design and engraving. According to Daws, “the next special exhibit in the works for the Transportation and Local History Museum is a commemorative look at the 100th Anniversary of Fort Bragg and what the military installation has meant to the city of Fayetteville and the surrounding areas.
“It Is Well With My Soul” will run in the Arts Council Gallery at 301 Hay St. until Feb. 24. The gallery’s hours are Monday–Thursday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m.–12 p.m., and Saturday from 12–4 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Arts Council’s website at www.theartscouncil.com or call the gallery at 910-323-1776.