An art collector has donated 152 pieces by Black artists to Howard University, some old and rare and collectively valued at $2.5 million.
Patricia Turner Walters, the widow of former Howard professor, Dr. Ronald W. Walters, said she is donating to honor her husband, who taught political science for 25 years and became an expert in the field of Black politics. Walters also chaired Howard’s political science department for almost a decade.
Walters also taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, as well as Princeton, Brandeis, and Syracuse universities, but his wife said his “pride and joy was Howard,” reported WAMU.
“This gift comes at the perfect moment to expand our students’ involvement in the political conversations of our time,” Howard President Wayne Frederick said in a statement, according to WAMU. Frederick said Howard’s Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center is named after Walters and that the university plans to put into place an endowed chair for Black politics and also name it after Walters.
In 1958, Walters, then 20, organized a drug store sit-in in Wichita, Kansas, where he was from. That move led to the desegregation of drugstores across Wichita, according to WAMU. In the 1980s, Walters also backed Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns.
Among some of the noteworthy pieces in Turner Walters collection are pieces by Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, and Grafton Tyler. She also has pieces from Kehinde Wiley, the artist commissioned to paint Barack Obama’s presidential portrait, Barkley Hendricks and Kerry James Marshall.
Before Turner Walters decided to donate the artwork to Howard, she said she would routinely get calls from collectors and museums hoping to buy her pieces.
“Back when I started collecting in the eighties, African American art was not really a high-profile entity,” she explained to WAMU, adding that a painting by Lewis would sell for $5,000 in the 1980s and is now worth over $1 million. “It’s an exciting time to be passionate about African American art.”