I Am Seen…Therefore, I Am: Isaac Julien and Frederick Douglass

May 18–September 24, 2023

Sir Isaac Julien’s immersive, multi-screen film installation Lessons of the Hour anchors this exploration of Frederick Douglass’ reflections on image-making, race, and citizenship. Co-curated by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, and presented in collaboration with The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, the exhibition brings together rare nineteenth-century daguerreotypes—on public view for the first time—saluting the studio practices of the African American photographers of Douglass’s era, as well as the many compelling sitters who sought to have their images captured and remembered.

Juxtaposing these historic images with Julien’s contemporary work, the presentation represents a dialogue between local and international, between Douglass’s encounters with the citizenry of Hartford, Connecticut, and the continuing international reach of his unfinished movement for social justice. I Am Seen…Therefore, I Am: Isaac Julien and Frederick Douglass marks the 180th anniversary of Douglass’s first visit to Hartford in May 1843. 

Related Programs

May 19, 2023 | Opening Artist Conversations with Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Prof. Sarah Lewis, and Sir Isaac Julien
May 18–21, 2023 | Member Mornings
May 20, 2023 | Curator Talk for Members with Director Matthew Hargraves
June 10, 2023 | In the Footsteps of Frederick Douglass walking tour for members
June 10, 2023 | Juneteenth Family Day
July 20–23, 2023 | Film: Frederick Douglass in Five Speeches (2022)
August 11–13, 2023 | Film: Young Soul Rebels (1991)
September 8, 2023 | Curator Talk with Director Matthew Hargraves
September 10, 2023 | Adult Art Class: Tintype Workshop with Maureen Feeley and Dave Caramello
September 15–17, 2023 | Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask (1995)
September 21–24, 2023 | Member Mornings
September 23, 2023 | Public Lecture: The Life and Times of Anna Murray Douglass with Daina Ramey Berry

Multimedia Extras

Opening Artist Conversation | Friday, May 19, 2023

Exhibition curators Professors Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sarah Lewis talk with artist Sir Isaac Julien about the ways image and history weave throughout his work.

Lessons of the Hour

Watch the trailer of Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour.

See rare daguerreotypes from the collection of Greg French

Row 1: Unknown, Woman with Print Dress and Painted Backdrop, c.1850. Daguerreotype. Sixth Plate; Unknown, Man in White Suit, c. 1850. Daguerreotype. Sixth Plate. The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Hartford, Conn.
Row 2: Unknown, Group with Dog Outside, c.1860. Ambrotype. Sixth Plate. Collection of Greg French; Unknown, Man with Bugle, c.1846. Daguerreotype. Sixth plate. Collection of Greg French
Row 3: Unknown, Mother and Children, c.1850. Daguerreotype. Collection of Greg French


Curated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis and presented in collaboration with The Amistad Center for Art & Culture.

I Am Seen…Therefore, I Am: Isaac Julien and Frederick Douglass is made possible through the generous support of The Larsen Fund for Photography, The Cheryl Chase and Stuart Bear Family Foundation, David T. Langrock Foundation, The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation, Travelers, Mally and James Cox-Chapman, M.D., and the Wadsworth Exhibition Fund supported by the Estates of James Lyon, Karen Kelleher, and Susannah Shickman.

Lessons of the Hour trailer courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art logo