Ashley Bryan (1923–2022)
The Negro Speaks of Rivers (from Sail Away), 2015
Collage of cut colored papers with graphite and printed text mounted on a tracing paper overlay
The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Ashley Bryan Center; 2021.25:17


Colin B. Bailey, Director, The Morgan Library & Museum

Hello, I’m Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library and Museum, and I am delighted to welcome you to Ashley Bryan and Langston Hughes: Sail Away. This exhibition explores how the poet Langston Hughes and the artist Ashley Bryan responded to the themes of rivers, seas, and oceans in their work.

Both Bryan and Hughes went to sea as young men, and both drew on their experiences then, as well as later experiences, to create rich and varied works about the world of the water. As Black artists, they also examined what these themes had meant to Africans and Black Americans, finding inspiration in religion, folklore, and song.

In 2015, Bryan paid tribute to this aspect of Hughes’s work with the book Sail Away, in which he paired his original collages with Hughes’s poems – these collages, along with other preparatory materials for the book, recently given to the Morgan by the Ashley Bryan Center, are the centerpiece of the exhibition.

As you move through the gallery, look for the audio symbols to hear further commentary about the artworks and books on view. We are particularly grateful to Sandy Campbell, a close friend of Ashley’s, for providing introductions to the audioguide stops. Thank you for joining us at the Morgan. We hope you enjoy your visit.