Patricia Turner Walters donated her expansive African American art collection, worth $2,519,250 to Howard University in honor of her late husband, renowned African diaspora scholar, Dr. Ronald W. Walters.
Dr. Walters was a political strategist and leading voice on issues impacting the African diaspora. He served as a professor at Howard University in the political science department for 25 years and as department chair for nearly a decade. He began his activism in 1958 as president of the local youth chapter of the NAACP in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas.
He went on to graduate with a degree in history from Fisk University in 1963, eventually earning a master’s in African studies and a doctorate in international studies from American University.
He amassed a number of accomplishments in his lifetime including serving as an advisor to the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, being campaign manager and consultant for both of Jesse Jackson’s Presidential runs, serving on the board of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and being a founding member of TransAfrica.
Dr. Walters was also the director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland for 13 years and taught as a professor at a number of universities including Syracuse, Princeton, and Brandeis University where he became the first chairman of Afro-American studies. He was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and published ten books and over 200 articles over the course of his lifetime.
Patricia Walters began collecting art in the 1980s. Her collection features renowned artists such as Robert S. Duncanson, Edward M. Bannister, Grafton Tyler Brown, Aaron Douglas, Norman Lewis, Kehinde Wiley, Barkley Hendricks, and more. Dr. Walters passed away in 2010, and Mrs. Walters said she had been trying to find a way to honor her husband’s legacy and this was the perfect fit. The total collection includes 152 pieces of Black art including sculptures, rare prints, photographs, and pieces from the Harlem Renaissance.
“Glory” (ca, 1960) by Elizabeth Catlett. Photo Courtesy of Howard University
“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. 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. I am grateful to President Frederick for working with me to make this possible. I could not be happier,” Walters said.
President Wayne A.I. Frederick issued a press release saying, “It is an incredible honor to receive this generous gift of precious art from the Walters family. 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.”
Frederick has plans to continue to expand Dr. Walter’s legacy at Howard University by establishing the Ronald W. Walters Endowed Chair for Race and Black Politics. The chair will focus on interdisciplinary collaborations across the university with the hopes of tackling many of the issues impacting those of the African diaspora.
“Dr. Walters was a giant among scholars here at Howard University, nationally and internationally, and this endowed chair is designed to be a reflection of his unique history as an activist, a political strategist and a trailblazing academic professor. This gift comes at the perfect moment to expand our students’ involvement in the political conversations of our time,” Frederick said.
May the legacy of Dr. Ronald W. Walters live on!