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John George Brown (American, 1831-1913),
The Card Trick , ca. 1880s
oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.; 76.2 x 102.24 cm
Gift of the estate of Mrs. Sarah Joslyn, 1944.14

Through exhibitions, permanent collection acquisitions, and programming, Joslyn is working to elevate and amplify perspectives that historically have been underrepresented in the galleries. The Museum recognizes the potential of interpretation to highlight the diverse histories, beliefs, and practices embodied in works of art. With OMAHA SPEAKS, we look to broaden the conventional interpretation of objects in our permanent collection by introducing commentary from leaders in our community.

Dawaune Lamont Hayes, Creator

When I see this image, I see myself: a Black boy with a handful of high numbered cards, showing white spectators a special trick up his sleeve to garner a positive reaction.

When I see this, I think of how Black people have had to entertain to survive. As long as we made white people smile or laugh, we lived. (Though, too often, our death was their joy.) This speaks to a history of forced servitude, vaudeville, Jazz and Blues, sports, and more. As an artist who comes from an Afro-multi-racial family, I’ve found that I have always been able to surprise people who underestimate my abilities and can convince almost anyone of anything when I show how much I believe what I am saying.

This observation is not to shame people who are white; it is simply a recollection of my experience and how it resonates with what I see here. Of course, the painting is well-executed with exquisite light, color, composition, and expression. That’s obvious. What isn’t, depending on the viewer, is the underlying story of being Black in America.

To the Black child viewing this painting, you are more than a trick. You are a brick in the foundation of our liberation.


Dawaune Lamont Hayes is a multidisciplinary artist working at the intersections of movement, journalism, and social justice. As a Black Queer creator from Omaha, Nebraska, Dawaune recognizes their identities are inherently political and utilizes their artistic expression as a means of historical reconciliation and regenerative futurism.

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