Stormé DeLarverié (center), surrounded by three drag performers at Roberts Show Club, Chicago, Illinois (photo credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; image courtesy Black Portraiture(s) Conference)

Now in its ninth edition, this week’s Black Portraiture[s] conference will bring scholars, journalists, artists, researchers, conservationists, and curators to New York University to discuss the visual archives of Black history in the United States. The 50 panel discussions that make up Black Portraiture[s] V: Memory and the Archive Past. Present. Future. are free and open to the public, and  according to the conference, they will explore “the making of visual archives, the narratives they tell, and the parameters that define them as objects of study.” Additionally, the conference will use the crucial context of historical checkpoints, such as this year’s 400th anniversary of the first record of enslaved Africans landing on North American shores, to frame its discussions.

The many diverse panels will cover plenty of ground in unpacking this history. There’s “Representation Matters: The Evolving Black LGBTQ Archive,” on Thursday, October 17, which will analyze the scarcity of  “popular images documenting and articulating black LGBTQ life” as well as efforts to correct that discrepancy. A few of Friday’s panel highlights include the discussions like “#ForBlackHealing: Laughter, Sharing, & Black Secrecy,” about memes and digital community, as well as several focused on photography, including “Choice and the Archive: Photography of Africa and the African Diaspora” and “Portraitures: Photography and History.” Importantly, several panels will dig into discrete aspects of the representation of slavery through history: “Slavery and Art 1619,” “The Afterlife of Slavery: Visual, Textual, Sonic Arts and Archives of Catastrophic Memory,” and “Slavery to the Present: Black Performance Art and The Archive” among them. The conference will wrap up on Saturday, October 19, with panels on the “pain and trauma” in Black pop culture and art, as well as the role of sound in the archives of Black history, and more.

Check out the official Black Portraiture[s] website for more specific panel information.

When: Thursday-Saturday, October 17-19, 2019 (free to attend, but first-come-first-served)
Where: Kimmel Center for University Life (60 Washington Square South, West Village, Manhattan) and the Transportation Building (370 Jay Street, Downtown Brooklyn)

Eric Vilas-Boas is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic. He has previously worked at Thrillist, Esquire, SPIN,, and his writing has appeared at Vulture, Slashfilm, Lit Hub, Paste,...