Black Holocaust MemorialJames Kimble

Status

Extant

Address

547 E. Anderson Lane, Savannah, Geogia, 31401, United States

Built

2002 to present

Visiting Information

The Black Holocaust Museum is located in the alley (called East Anderson Lane) behind Kimble's home on East Anderson Street. At one time, the installation was visible from East Broad Street, but homes have since been built between the sculptures and the street. The work is free to view (though donations are accepted), and Kimble is often nearby and available to discuss the Memorial. 

About the Artist/Site

In 2002, Savannah, Georgia, the city with the largest recorded slave auction in U.S. history, had no public monuments recognizing the atrocities that occurred there throughout the time of the transatlantic slave trade. That year, a sculpture titled the “African-American Monument” was unveiled on River Street, the city’s waterfront tourist district, with the intention of addressing that history. However, according to local artist James Kimble, the piece (created by a white artist) did not acknowledge the true nature of slavery. In response, Kimble used a technique he had developed throughout years of art making to create a papier-mâché sculpture called the Black Holocaust Memorial which continues to stand in his downtown Savannah neighborhood. 

The sculpture consists of a rectangular open air structure encasing a family of enslaved people. An unclothed Black man in shackles stands on a platform as if at auction in its center. A woman and two children gather around his feet, perhaps signifying that these family members will soon be sold off to separate plantations, never to see one another again. Heavy silver shackles are prominently bound to the man’s wrists and ankles. This image distinctly contrasts the African-American Monument downtown, which portrays a Black family huddled together in modern dress (the man in a suit and tie) with subtle chains draped around their feet. A quote on the pedestal by Maya Angelou originally referenced the horrific forced journey across the Atlantic for enslaved people but was eventually changed to a message of hope to be more palatable for tourist viewers. 

Kimble attended the dedication of the African-American Monument and was dismayed by the watering down of the realities of slavery. He immediately set to work on his response, which now stands behind his home in an alley close to the corner of East Anderson and East Broad. His intention is for his sculpture to be accessible to neighborhood children so they may better understand the history of slavery and the horror faced by enslaved people. Close attention and care is paid to the installation. While the message and core sculptural arrangement at the center stays the same, the arrangement and the structure encasing the work appears to be shifted and modified over time. Though the outdoor piece was almost twenty years old at the time of my viewing in 2021, it appeared fresh and in excellent condition – a testament to Kimble’s dedicated maintenance. 

The Black Holocaust Memorial stands separate from but adjacent to a row of whimsical, lighthearted sculptural installations featuring cartoonish figures like a sea turtle wearing boxing gloves and Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Christmas costumes. There are also more serious pieces within the row of sculptures like a snarling panther under a “New Black Panther Party” sign. (Dedicated to this organization, Kimble was also wearing a New Black Panther Party shirt on the day we met in July 2021.) He has also created a display in honor of his mother Bernice featuring an angel with magnificent golden wings at its center. Many of Kimble’s sculptures are created using a similar technique – molded wire covered with papier-mâché which is then painted and varnished. He has been an artist his entire life, first learning to make papier-mâché as a child and then using it to create puppets to put on shows for other kids. In addition to his large displays, which he generally creates around Christmas each year, he makes discrete pieces on commission, like the Anubis sculpture pictured in the image gallery. Visitors are welcome to view the Memorial, and Kimble can often be found working nearby, available to chat and answer questions about the installation. 

 

Sources: 

Materials

papier-mâché, wire, paint, varnish, other materials

Map & Site Information

547 E. Anderson Lane
Savannah, Geogia, 31401 us
Latitude/Longitude: 32.060137 / -81.091305

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