Richard J. Powell is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, where he has taught since 1989. The Richard Powell Papers date from 1960 to 2011 and document Powell's career as a prominent scholar of African and Afro-American art and as professor of art history at Duke University. Materials originate from Powell's student years, travels, research, and work at various cultural institutions, including Duke University, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Washington Project for the Arts. There is extensive material on Powell's books, exhibitions, and other professional activities.
The Richard J. Powell Papers document Powell's career as a prominent scholar of African and Afro-American art. Materials in the collection date from 1960 to 2011, with the bulk being from 1975 to 2011, and document most aspects of Powell's career, beginning with his student years and including his travels, research, and work at several major cultural institutions, including Duke University, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Washington Project for the Arts.
The Name Files Series contains Powell's incoming and outgoing correspondence with well-known artists, such as Adrian Piper, Martin Puryear, and Carrie Mae Weems, as well as curators, professors, and other professionals with whom Powell collaborated on exhibitions, books, and other projects. The series also contains personal letters and postcards.
The Subjects Series includes texts, newspaper articles, exhibition publicity, and notes on a range of subjects including major art museums and galleries, publications, courses taught at Duke University, and diverse research topics including the Kongo and Jazz, among others. Many of the subject files also contain Powell's notes and correspondence.
The Books Series contains materials pertaining to the research, writing, and publication of Richard J. Powell's various books: Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture of 2008; Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson of 1991 along with a related exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art; and Black Art & Culture in the 20th Century of 1997.
The Reference Images Series comprises Powell's reference photographs, photocopies, and other reproductions of works of art.
The Exhibitions Series includes information on exhibitions curated by Powell, including Back to Black: Art, Cinema, and the Racial Imaginary (2005), To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (1999), Circle Dance: The Art of John T. Scott (2005), Barkley L. Hendricks materials (2000-2008), Rhapsodies in Black (1995-1997), The Blues Aesthetic (1996-1998) and Conjuring Bearden (2004-2006).
The Donyale Luna Project Series contains Powell's research on African-American 1960s supermodel Donyale Luna, to whose life and portraiture he dedicated a chapter in his 2008 book, Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture.
The Printed Materials Series contains flyers, booklets, postcards, pamphlets, posters, periodicals, and catalogues from a variety of American and international museums and art galleries.
The Personal and Early Papers Series documents Powell's childhood, collegiate and graduate education, as well as his early years as a member of the Duke University faculty.
The Articles and Lectures by Powell Series comprises articles, graduate research papers from Yale and Howard Universities, and lectures.
The Photographs Series contains images of Powell and others arranged into subsections: Professional, Personal, Portraits, and Artists, Writers, Curators, etc. Among these photographs are images of Powell with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and Spike Lee.
The Works of Art Series includes art made by Richard J. Powell and others, and are mostly prints. The Art Subseries is organized by artist.
Finally, the Audio Series contains cassette tapes documenting interviews with artists, such as Jacob Lawrence and Martin Puryear, and events at the National Center for the Humanities and the Museum of Modern Art.