• Reimagining Little Liberia: Restoration and Reunion
    Jamila Moore Pewu
    Mary and Eliza Freeman Center's Little Liberia Gallery, Bridgeport, CT
    Feb 01, 2016 to Jul 31, 2016
    Jamila Moore Pewu

Richard Patton IV, Ethiope, mixed media collage, 16x20 inches, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

In 1841, W. P. Johnson wrote, "Bridgeport [Connecticut] is a handsome place, and the people know how to entertain strangers. I think the [Colored Temperance] Convention next year ought to be held there again, as I do not think that it was generally known." Indeed, the story of how blacks and Native Americans from Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and the West Indies transformed an isolated, undesirable part of town into a thriving, "peri-urban multiethnic enclave" in the early-nineteenth century is generally not known to many. The lack of historical data on this free community of color has rendered its legacies of freedom, entrepreneurship, and cultural innovation invisible to our present landscape. This exhibition provides a full sensory introduction to Little Liberia, its people, its surviving architecture, and its cultural geography. As visitors engage multimedia installations, they also discover this neighborhood's potential for creating a historically sustainable community today.

Jamila Moore Pewu's work encompasses the diverse fields of Black Atlantic studies, architectural history/theory, African and African American history, and cultural geography. As assistant professor of digital humanities and new media in history at California State University, Fullerton, her work focuses on increasing public access to vital historical data, and creating opportunities for collaboration between scholars, as well as between scholarship and the communities represented therein. Her recent work includes a geographically multi-sited digital map featuring communities in the United States, West Africa, and Mexico that share the place name, Liberia. The map prototype was completed in 2013 with support from the National Science Foundation's Geography and Spatial Sciences Division. As head curator for Restoration and Reunion, she helps weave the larger humanities questions with which this exhibition is concerned into permanent installations that introduce diverse audiences to Bridgeport's Little Liberia neighborhood, both now and then.