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Activist Dread Scott on Civil Rights, Race, and Artistic Expression

Dread Scott

Host Jonathan Judaken talks with artist Dread Scott about #BlackLivesMatter, the continuing history and struggle for racial equality in America, the connections between race and money, racial profiling, the lingering memories of lynching, and how art can affect social justice. 

Dread Scott is an artist who works in a variety of media to encourage discussions about various aspects of racial injustice and the importance of remembering - and learning from - the history of equality in America. Scott’s most recent controversy was sparked by another flag flying over a new show in New York that reads “A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday” in stark block letters. He first first incited national debate in the late 1980s with his installation, What is the Proper way to Display a U.S. Flag?, which President G. H.W. Bush declared “disgraceful” and the entire US Senate denounced the work and outlawed it when they passed legislation to “protect the flag.” To oppose this law and other efforts which would effectively make patriotism compulsory, he, along with three other protesters, burned flags on the steps of the US Capitol. This resulted in a Supreme Court case and a landmark First Amendment decision.

As Scott describes himself, "I make revolutionary art to propel history forward. This is a world where a tiny handful of people controls the great wealth and knowledge humanity as a whole has created. It is a world of profound polarization, exploitation and suffering and billions are excluded from intellectual development and full participation in society. It does not have to be this way and my art is part of forging a radically different world. The work illuminates the misery that this society creates for so many people and it often encourages the viewer to envision how the world could be." 

Scott will be in Memphis on September 8th for a public lecture at Rhodes College titled, “The Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide.” His work will be showcased in the exhibit at Clough-Hanson Gallery, The Weight of Hope, which opens September 9th.

For more information about Dread Scott and his artwork:


For more information about Communities in Conversation Series at Rhodes College:

For more information about exhibits at the Clough-Hanson Gallery:

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