Museum Collaborates SHSU Student for Black History Month Exhibit
Feb. 8, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd
By Hunter King
In a collaboration between art and history, Jasmine Underwood, a graduating senior at Sam Houston State University, has brought the stories of the past to life through her illustrations of the art pieces displayed in the "12 Plus One" exhibit at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum & Republic of Texas Presidential Library.
Underwood, an art major, embarked on this project as part of her African American Literature course, which included a community engagement component. Seeking a creative outlet for collaboration, Underwood connected with Jude Routh, curator of exhibits at the museum, and discovered the ongoing "12 Plus One" exhibit, shedding light on the lives of the 13 enslaved individuals who worked on Sam Houston's farm.
“It started as a class assignment. I reached out to Miss Jude, and she told me about the 12 Plus One exhibit,” Underwood said. “I didn't even know they had it. She told me about the research and sent me moments I could illustrate.”
The illustrations, portraying scenes such as Eliza doing laundry, Joshua at the forge and Joshua with young Jeff Hamilton in a wagon, serve as a visual testament to the humanity of the enslaved workers. Underwood expressed the personal connection she felt to the stories, emphasizing the importance of highlighting the lives of those who once worked the very land she now walks as an SHSU student.
“Black students weren't always allowed to go to Sam,” Underwood said. “I just had all these things in mind when I was drawing the illustrations. It felt very personal.”
Her inspiration draws from a desire to make the past relatable and to emphasize the humanity of enslaved individuals.
“I hope that the drawings demonstrate their humanity,” Underwood said. “These were people that had lives, skills, hopes, wishes and worries. They weren't just a memento from the past.”
The collaboration involved a back-and-forth process of critique and refinement between Underwood and Routh. The digital drawings, created mainly on her iPad, were based on reference photographs sent by Routh. Underwood highlighted the importance of historical understanding, mentioning her love for combining historical aspects with contemporary culture in her artwork.
“I want people to take away that history is much closer to home than you would think,” Underwood said. “I want their humanity to shine through. I want empathy to rain from this project.”
Underwood’s hope is that the illustrations invite viewers to connect with the past, fostering empathy and understanding for the lives of those who shaped the history of the Sam Houston farm.
“12 Plus One” is an ongoing exhibit that the museum displays every year during Black History Month. Each year the museum’s goal is to further new and ongoing research about the lives of the enslaved people that worked for the Houston Family. The exhibit and Jasmine’s drawings will be on display in the exhibit gallery at the Katy & E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center, located at 1402 19th Street, until March 3, 2024.
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