Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Black Angel Child Statue

Catalog Number: F030


2.01" x 2.25" x 3.89"

51.06 mm x 57.25 mm x 98.92 mm

Materials: Ceramic
Usage: N/A
Detailed Description of Significance:

For centuries, Christianity has played a major role in the lives of many African Americans, yet the visual culture of the religion in the U.S. has largely privileged whiteness—showing Biblical figures, such as Jesus and the angels, as racially white. Nevertheless, many black churches and community groups have ignored or defied these standards, featuring black religious figures in art created for local events and decoration. Likewise, white productions of decades past sometimes allowed for the possibility of black angels and saints. The 1930 stage play The Green Pastures featured events from the Bible reinterpreted through the eyes of a young, black child; the play was written by Marc Connelly, a white man, but it (and its 1936 film adaptation) featured an all-black cast. Still, such productions were the exception rather than the rule; Jesus and the angels were understood broadly to be white. Figurines and other decorations long reflected the same biases.

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, positive depictions of black figures became more common as African Americans agitated for racial equality, prompting art galleries, museums, and retailers to more frequently display artwork featuring black figures. Figures such as this were increasingly common by the 1970s and 1980s, when companies offered entire lines of figurines and artwork that catered to black consumers, including lines that featured black versions of Santa Claus, Jesus, and angels. In the early days, such retailers often relied on advertisements in black-themed magazines, such as Ebony, to sell these products; indeed, companies have offered even high-end collectible figurines of angels with African-sounding names and elaborate biographies. However, today most large retailers offer black-themed household decorations such as this statuette.