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Charlotte native, artist Romare Bearden's connection with the South detailed in book

Michael Marsland

Editor's note: This conversation originally aired May 10, 2022.

Many Charlotteans may know the work of Romare Bearden, the acclaimed artist from Mecklenburg County, but not much about him or his life.

Bearden was born here, but his family’s story mirrors that of many Black Southern families of the early 20th century. Fleeing white supremacy and harassment, they relocated north for their safety when Bearden was a child.

Though he spent much of his life in New York and Pittsburgh, his Southern roots kept hold. Later in life, Bearden proclaimed that he “never left Charlotte, except physically.” The South deeply influenced his work and shows up in his distinctive paintings and collages.

His fascinating story is detailed in a book by Glenda Gilmore, a historian whose work focuses on civil rights and the Jim Crow era. Guest host Erik Spanberg talks with her about “Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination: An Artist's Reckoning with the South.”


Glenda Gilmore, author of “Romare Bearden in the Homeland of His Imagination: An Artist's Reckoning with the South” and Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History Emerita at Yale University.

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Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.