Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats

Retired auditor Nancy Carpenter. Courtesy of Michael Cunningham.

December 12, 2003 – April 25, 2004
Anacostia Community Museum1901 Fort Place, SE
Washington, DC
Exhibition Gallery

Explore a tradition among African American women of wearing hats to worship, from the simple to the simply out-of-this-world. Faith and fashion fuse in photographs of thirty African American women keeping the Sabbath holy in high style. Accompanying the portraits are stories of the “Hat Queens” and several of their “crowns.” Photographer Michael Cunningham collaborated with journalist Craig Marberry to photograph and interview women about why they wear hats, how many hats they own, and the rules of church hat etiquette. For Washington, DC-based Cunningham, “working on the project took me back to when I was a child in Landover, Maryland, where my mother was an evangelist. We would visit churches and I would see all the pretty hats.” He opted for black-and-white photography to avoid a commercial fashion sensibility and to focus on the wearers as much as the hats.

The exhibition was organized by a consortium of Atlanta-based institutions including the Alliance Theater, High Museum of Art and Woodruff Arts Center with additional support from Morehouse College.

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