'A worthy individual of the opposite race': Edwin A. Harleston at the Charleston Museum - Laura Bragg and Thomas P. Stoney's Attempt for Progress, 1926

Caitlin Elizabeth Podas, University of South Carolina


In April 1926 African-American portraitist Edwin Augustus Harleston was invited by Mayor Thomas P. Stoney and museum director Laura Bragg to exhibit his work at the Charleston Museum. Despite having a formal education in art from Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts and exhibiting his work in Washington, D.C. and New York City, this was the first time he was offered the opportunity to hang his art in an institution in his hometown of Charleston because of Jim Crow laws and racial prejudice. Why then, in this time of segregation and racism, would Harleston be invited to make his artistic debut at the Charleston Museum? Stoney and Bragg saw Harleston's exhibition as an opportunity to further their progressive agendas; Stoney's attempts to increase tourism with the help of other artists and appear progressive in the eyes of the Foreign Trade Council; and Bragg's attempts to increase African American access at the museum and further her efforts to exhibit other cultures. Before the exhibit could take place, however, pressure from outside forces caused Stoney and Bragg to cancel the exhibition.