PRINT September 1996


SOMEWHERE BEFORE THE MIDDLE of Toni Morrison’s epic novel Beloved you realize that this is a story you’ve never heard. Perhaps its horror and beauty have been hinted at, whispered, but it has remained the unspeakable heretofore unspoken. Then, about fifty pages later, you realize that perhaps this is a story that you don’t want to hear. But you have to.

Kara Walker comes from the South, Atlanta actually, though by 1969, when she was born, the city had overcome, had become part of the New South. This is critical to the rest of the story, which, like the slave narratives Walker borrows from in her black paper cutout silhouettes, provides equal doses of startling fact and necessary fiction. Leaving, “escaped” as she puts it, to study up North, Walker is fleeing Atlanta’s proximity to history, the Black History Month exhibitions, the racial uplift esthetic, and a segregated art world. Fleeing

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