Oakland, CA: the artist, 1969-1970. 18 works on sheets of paper ranging from 17x19 to 18x24 inches, together with a brief autobiographical statement by the artist printed out and signed in 2007. Several of the pieces bear a pen notation next to the signature indicating that these works were done for the Romeo Yarborough defense appeal. Dates, when present, span 1969 and 1970. Two drawings are photographed here; please contact us for images of the additional pieces.
Yarborough states that he joined the Black Panther Party in 1968. According to a brief biography posted on the site of the University of Delaware Library’s Special Collections, Yarborough attended a Black Studies Fine Arts program at the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1969, a year after joining the Black Panthers. Some of these works appear to be class exercises, such as depictions of hands in various poses, but others reflect a more individual vision, the majority of them featuring nude Black women. Those that are dated all fall between 1969 and 1970. We are unable to find any information about a Yarborough defense appeal during this period; it certainly was not a major Panther case, if indeed it had any connection to the Panthers. As for Yarborough’s own connection to the Panthers, his brief statement included here (printed out from a computer in 2007, with tape at both ends and a signature at the bottom) hints at how it began, noting that he had grown up in Bobby Seale’s neighborhood. “Joined Panthers 1968. Cowrie shells are African wampum. Gold chain / $ blinded by money. Netting… Black man was the catch. He trapped his own self. Black Panthers had shootout on Myrtle St… cops wiping them out, Bobby Hutton died [Hilliard Cleaver]. Roger came to see what was going on. Pimp until that day.” The Myrtle Street reference is to the April 6, 1968 shootout in Oakland. On the back of another painting held by the University of Delaware, Yarborough wrote “This painting is better as is most of my work when viewed in a ‘black light’ lighting situation. My work stands out best in the dark or the blackness of night! Like the panther I am ivisible [sic] in darkness but my spirit is luminess [sic].”.
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