Clarissa Sligh papers, 1950-2010

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Sligh, Clarissa T. and Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture
Clarissa Sligh is an artist and author of works such as Wrongly Bodied, Reading Dick and Jane with Me, What's Happening With Momma? Jake in Transition, and It Wasn't Little Rock. Collection includes materials relating to Sligh's career as an artist, with particular focus on her various projects and exhibitions in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. Projects represented include Jake In Transition/Wrongly Bodied, Witness to Dissent/It Wasn't Little Rock, Coast to Coast, Sandy Ground, Malcolm X: Man, Ideal, Icon, What's Happening With Momma? and an NC Reunion/Slavery project, along with several others. Sligh's files frequently include correspondence, research materials, drafts of essays and exhibition plans, clippings and other source materials, contact sheets and slides, and occasionally exhibit pieces and texts from the actual installation. Other items included in the collection are exhibition binders and scrapbooks kept by Sligh to document her career; correspondence and communication between Sligh and other artists, galleries, or publishers; catalogs and publicity materials from Sligh's many exhibitions, shows, and publications, artists' books, materials documenting Sligh's art and process, large framed photographic prints; and other materials. Acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.
70 Linear Feet
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Clarissa Sligh Papers have been divided into 8 series: Binders and Catalogs, Projects, Correspondence, Journals and Notepads, Photographs, and Artists' Book Dummies and Drafts, Jake in Transition, and Accession 2013-0149.

The Binders and Catalogs series includes a selection of exhibition binders, kept and collected by Sligh as a record of her various projects, events, and exhibits. Also includes press clippings, museum catalogs, and other programming materials. Items have been removed from their original binders.

The Projects series includes files from many of Sligh's art and research projects, relating to a variety of topics such as slavery, civil rights, genealogy, gender studies, and African American history. A "project" may include materials from an installation, artist book, exhibit, or all of these formats. Sligh's work frequently evolved over time and expanded in scope and format. This series also includes files from Sligh's exhibitions and publications. Major projects documented include: NC Reunion and Slavery Project, a film related to the Artists' Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America, Jake in Transition/Wrongly Bodied, Coast to Coast, Witness to Dissent, Sandy Ground, and Malcolm X: Man, Ideal, Icon.

The Correspondence Series contains three subseries of correspondence: the first has been sorted in loose chronological order according to Sligh's own folder arrangements; the second contains Sligh's self-designated "to do," "answered," "unanswered," and other unsorted correspondence; the third has files that are arranged alphabetically by subject or correspondent's name.

The Journals and Notepads Series includes a set of legal notepads kept by Sligh during the late 1990s. Many entries related to her work on Jake in Transition, but the journals also include Sligh's discussions and reflections on other projects and artwork.

The Photographs Series includes images of artwork and installations by Sligh, portraits of Sligh, and portraits and snapshots of family and friends.

The Artists Books Dummies and Drafts Series includes mockups and drafts from the production of Wrongly Bodied; It Wasn't Little Rock; Malcolm X; Reading Dick and Jane with Me (including "Play with Jane" print); What's Happening with Momma? and alternate version of this book called Girlchild; Hiroshima, Hopes and Dreams; and Voyage(r): Tourist Map to Japan.

The Jake in Transition series consists of photographic prints.

Accession 2012-0149 is an addition consisting of Sligh's documentation of her work and process, photographs and negatives, large screen prints, and political posters.

Biographical / historical:

Clarissa Sligh is a visual artist, writer, and lecturer. Sligh was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in Arlington, Virginia, lived in Manhattan for 30 years and now resides in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. She has taught at New York University, the School of Visual Art and the University of Pennsylvania.

When she was 15 years old she became the lead plaintiff in the 1955 school desegregation case in Virginia (Clarissa Thompson et. al. vs. Arlington County School Board). After working in math and science with NASA and later in business, she began a career as an artist, using photographs, drawings, text, and personal stories to explore themes of transformation and social justice.

In 1988, she published her first artists' book "What's Happening With Momma?" through the Women's Studio Workshop in New York. Additional artists' books include Wrongly Bodied Two, It Wasn't Little Rock, Voyage(r): A Tourist Map to Japan, and Reading Dick and Jane With Me.

Her solo art installations include Witness to Dissent, Sandy Ground, Re(Union), and Passages. Other artistic series include The Masculinity Project, Reframing the Past, Reading Dick & Jane, Suburban Atlanta, and Jake in Transition. A list of selected works as well as background information and images from each project is available on Sligh's website.

Acquisition information:
The Clarissa Sligh Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2011 and 2012.
Processing information:

Processed by Kelly Wooten, Kate Collins, Meghan Lyon, December 2011; Megan Lewis, Sara Reams, October 2013

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, December 2011

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 2011-0141; 2012-0149; 2012-0246

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

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Access note. Some materials in this collection are fragile audiovisual formats that may need to be reformatted before use. Contact Research Services for access.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Clarissa Sligh Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.