In Response to Police Brutality, Artist Dread Scott Updates Historic Protest

It will be waving above Jack Shainman Gallery today.

Dread Scott, A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday (2015). ©Dread Scott. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

A last-minute addition to the current show at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York, “For Freedoms,” will feature a work that’s sure to grab attention from passersby. This afternoon, Dread Scott’s flag installation, A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday, will be mounted outside of Jack Shainman’s West 20th Street location. Scott’s installation is an updated version of the iconic 1936 flag that hung outside the New York City headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“I think I did it in relation to Walter Scott getting killed,” he told artnet News in a phone conversation, mentioning the black South Carolina resident killed by police after a routine traffic stop.

Related: Dread Scott Demands Dissolution of America’s ‘Racist’ Police Force in Honor of Malcolm X Anniversary

Yesterday, marches took place in cities across the US to protest the killing of Philando Castile in Minnesota, and Alton Sterling in Louisiana—two black men shot by police, and both caught on video. WNYC reports that hundreds of protesters marched up Fifth Avenue from Union Square to Midtown during rush hour, chanting: “The people united, never be divided,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

Between 1882 and 1951, Tuskegee Institute estimates that upwards of 4,700 people were lynched in the US. The original flag,  A Man Was Lynched Yesterday, was planted outside the window of the headquarters of the NAACP on 69 Fifth Avenue in New York in 1936, where it stayed for two years until “the threat of losing its lease forced the association to discontinue the practice,” the Library of Congress website states. This was during the era of “Strange Fruit,” the anti-lynching song made popular by singer Billie Holliday and penned by high school teacher Abel Meeropol.

“It’s been decades that I’ve been following police murder people and at a certain point I decided I needed to create an updated version of it for the NAACP,” Scott explains. In reaction to yesterday’s events, the artist reached out to fellow artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman to include his updated version of the flag in Jack Shainman’s gallery show.

Dread Scott, <em>A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday</em> (2015). Courtesy of the artist.

Dread Scott, A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday (2015). Courtesy of the artist.

Related: Dread Scott Wants You to Rise Up against Slavery

According to Scott, the gallery was more than receptive to his request and arranged to help him determine a place to mount the flag. “It got into an interesting show in Des Moines,” Scott adds, adding that “It was responding to a lot of the police killings.”

In a statement on the Jack Shainman Gallery website, “For Freedoms” is an exhibition dedicated to encouraging deeper conversations and engagement regarding the 2016 presidential election. Other artists participating in the show include Carrie Mae Weems, Mickalene Thomas, and Nari Ward.

“It’s extremely good that galleries, including commercial galleries, can be so responsive in the moment,” Scott maintains. “This is uncommon in the arts and more spaces should do this.”

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