Ronald W. Walters is remembered as a prolific, award-winning author and activist who published over 100 books and academic articles dissecting race and society in America. But to the students and faculty at Howard University, he’s revered for the decades he served as both a professor and chair in the school’s Department of Political Science. And now, nearly a decade since his passing, his legacy at the university will live on thanks to a generous gift from his widow, Patricia Turner Walters.
An art collector and widow of a former Howard University professor has donated 152 works by African American artists to Howard University. The collection, valued at $2.5 million, includes some of the earliest surviving works by African Americans in this country.
“Many of the earlier artists—what I call the masters—didn’t make any money off their art,” says Patricia Turner Walters, who started collecting in the late 1980s. One of her favorite pieces that she’s donating is the oldest work in her collection—an 1864 landscape by Robert S. Duncanson.
The collection, which includes photographs, original sculptures, rare prints, and other jaw-dropping finds from pivotal eras like the Harlem Renaissance, features contributions from artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Edward M. Bannisters, and Kerry James Marshall.
“I could not be more delighted about the decision to give my art collection to Howard, the institution that my husband cared so deeply about,” Mrs. Walters told WTOP. “I always knew I wanted to do something like this to honor my husband’s legacy, but I never imagined that I would get to see it happen in my lifetime.”
Additionally, Howard revealed that it will establish the Ronald W. Walters Endowed Chair for Race and Black Politics “with the aim of spurring interdisciplinary collaborations on critical issues, especially those affecting Americans of the African diaspora.”
“It is an incredible honor to receive this generous gift of precious art from the Walters family,” Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University, said. “This collection of sculptures and portraits and paintings will be an excellent complement to our gallery and a beneficial focus of training in our art history courses.”
Though most of the pieces were acquired after 2002, Mrs. Walters began her highly sought-after collection in the late 1980s. Instead of gifting it to one of the countless collectors or museums throughout the world, it’s beautiful to hear that her art will instead be used to honor her late husband.
Howard’s art gallery isn’t big enough to display the collection in its entirety, but Mrs. Walters plans to unveil an exhibition that’s tentatively scheduled to arrive next spring.
“It’s an exciting time to be passionate about African-American art,” she said.