Isaac Julien. Photo by Thierry Bal. Courtesy the artist; Angela Davis. Photo by KK Ottesen; Sarah Elizabeth Lewish

From left: Isaac Julien. Photo by Thierry Bal. Courtesy the artist; Angela Davis. Photo by KK Ottesen; Sarah Elizabeth Lewis. Photo by Stu Rosner

Isaac Julien. Photo by Thierry Bal. Courtesy the artist; Angela Davis. Photo by KK Ottesen; Sarah Elizabeth Lewish

Online Event

Angela Davis and Isaac Julien in Conversation, Moderated by Sarah Lewis

Activist and scholar Angela Davis joins artist Isaac Julien for a conversation about the influence of Frederick Douglass on contemporary movements for racial justice, moderated by Sarah Lewis.

Activist, educator, and author Angela Davis joins artist Isaac Julien to discuss his immersive, moving-image installation Lessons of the Hour and Frederick Douglass’ resonant voice in contemporary racial and social justice movements. Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” Davis now urges her audiences to consider the future possibility of a world without carceral systems and to help forge a twenty-first-century abolitionist movement. The program is moderated by Sarah Lewis, associate professor of history of art and architecture and African and African American studies at Harvard University.


Angela Davis is an activist and scholar who has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world.  Her work as an educator—both at the university level and in the larger public sphere—has emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice. She is the author of ten books, including Women, Race and Class (New York, NY: Vintage, 1981); Blues Women and Black Feminisms: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday (New York, NY: Vintage, 1999); Are Prisons Obsolete? (New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2003); The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues (San Francisco, CA: City Lights, 2012);and most recently, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement (Chicago, IL: Haymarket Book, 2016). She draws upon her own experiences in the early seventies as a person who spent eighteen months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” she now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without carceral systems and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement. Davis is professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Isaac Julien, CBE RA (b. 1960) is an artist, filmmaker, and educator whose multi-screen film installations and photographs incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark; The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; MAC Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the De Pont Museum, Netherlands; Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Pompidou Centre Paris; and MoCA Miami. He has exhibited at the La Biennale de Venezia, Johannesburg Biennale, Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, and Shanghai Biennale. Julien is the recipient of The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award 2017 and was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2017. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of the Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he is developing the Isaac Julien Lab. He lives and works in London and Santa Cruz.

Sarah Elizabeth Lewis is an associate professor at Harvard University in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of African and African American Studies. She is the founder of the Vision and Justice Project. Lewis has published essays on race, contemporary art, and culture, with forthcoming publications including a book on race, whiteness, and photography (Harvard University Press, 2021), Vision and Justice (Random House), an anthology on the work of Carrie Mae Weems (MIT Press, 2021), and an article focusing on the groundwork of contemporary arts in the context of Stand Your Ground Laws (Art Journal, Winter 2020). In 2019, she became the inaugural recipient of the Freedom Scholar Award, presented by The Association for the Study of African American Life and History to honor Lewis for her body of work and its “direct positive impact on the life of African Americans.”


The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) celebrates Black cultures, ignites challenging conversations, and inspires learning through the global lens of the African diaspora. MoAD is one of the few museums in the world focused exclusively on African diaspora culture and on presenting the rich cultural heritage of the people of Africa and of African descendant cultures all across the globe. Originally called The African American Cultural Institute, MoAD grew out of a research and development process that began in 2002 and was renamed Museum of the African Diaspora to reflect a broadened scope and mission, and incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The San Francisco Public Library system is dedicated to free and equal access to information, knowledge, independent learning and the joys of reading for San Francisco communities.

The West Coast premiere of Lessons of the Hour includes an exhibition of Julien’s related photography and selections from the McEvoy Family Collection that further explore questions of identity, justice, history, and image-making in the film installation. New Labor Movementsa resonant original program of film and video shorts curated by Leila Weefur, explores contemporary visions of America and concepts of transnational Blackness. A series of online conversations with these artists and invited thinkers and scholars take place throughout the run of the exhibition. The project is produced in part with the partnership of the Isaac Julien Lab at UC Santa Cruz. Led by Julien and his collaborator, Mark Nash, the Lab offers an intensive research-based graduate program that emphasizes partnership and inter-disciplinary collaboration with contemporary artists, curators, and institutions across the globe.

This conversation is co-presented with the Museum of the African Diaspora and San Francisco Public Library.