Special exhibit runs through May 6, 2024 at the American Writers Museum in Chicago

Dark Testament, and all exhibits, are included with Museum admission.


Immerse yourself in Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice and honor the significant contributions of Black writers to American literature and history. Explore and better understand racial injustice in America by examining the work of Black American writers from the end of the Civil War through the Civil Rights Movement. Featuring original artwork, augmented reality and other interactive elements that enliven and enrich the experience, Dark Testament brings the work of writers past and present to life in new and exciting ways. Don’t miss this exciting new exhibit to hit Chicago!

Photo of Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice
Photo of Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice
Photo of Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice

Spanning three gallery spaces at the AWM, as well as online exhibit extensions, Dark Testament is the AWM’s most ambitious exhibit to date. Dive deep into the work of prominent writers such as Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and more, as well as lesser-known writers like Pauli Murray, whose poetry collection titled Dark Testament inspired the name of the exhibit. You’ll also hear from modern writers like Imani Perry, Elizabeth Nunez, Jabari Asim and more who show how contemporary writers are still confronting many of the same racial injustices that their predecessors did.

Featured Writers Include:

Frederick Douglass
Ida B. Wells
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Ma Rainey
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Nella Larsen
Langston Hughes
W.E.B. Du Bois
Richard Wright
Pauli Murray
Zora Neale Hurston
Ethel Payne
James Baldwin
Ralph Ellison
Malcolm X
Maya Angelou
and more!

“I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
—Malcolm X

“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise.”
—Maya Angelou

Dark Testament includes commissioned works of art by local Chicago artists. These one-of-a-kind pieces of art have an augmented reality component designed into them. Simply scan the art with your phone and watch as the writers and their words come to life!

Featured artists:

Dorothy Burge

Damon Reed

Dorian Sylvain

Bernard Williams

Photo of artwork featured in Dark Testament
Photo of artwork featured in Dark Testament

Dark Testament Program Series

A series of live in-person author events with writers whose work relates to themes and elements explored in Dark Testament. Be sure to check back regularly for new events!

No event found!

Past Programs

Revisit past programs related to Dark Testament on the AWM’s YouTube channel.

Dark Testament Retail

New merch inspired by Dark Testament is now available in our gift shop including prints of the artwork, t-shirts featuring select writers, and many of the books featured in the exhibit. Some of these items are available only in-store, though most are also online

Dark Testament Maya Angelou t shirt

“We hope that our efforts will contribute to the broader national project of increasing diversity, equity, access, and inclusion as we narrate a story of America that recognizes the extraordinary contributions of Black writers in literature and culture in our increasingly multi-racial society. Reading these writers will give us new narratives, new accounts, and new ways of thinking about a shared future that even the promises of the Declaration of Independence and the power of the Civil Rights Movement have yet to achieve.”

—Dr. Keidrick Roy, lead curator

Curating Team:

Dr. Keidrick Roy, Lead Curator – Harvard University
Ivy Wilson, PhD – Northwestern University
Megan Finch, PhD – University of Minnesota
Michael Sawyer – University of Pittsburgh
Col. Candice Pipes – United States Air Force
Natalie Y. Moore – Journalist
Nate Marshall – Poet
Glory Edim – Writer & Editor
Myiti Sengstacke-Rice – Educator, Publisher, & Community Activist