MAURICE BERGER was an American cultural historian, curator and art critic born on this date (d: 2020).
Berger was a research professor and chief curator at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore. Berger wrote the monthly Race Stories column, “a continuing exploration of the relationship of race to photographic portrayals of race”, for the Lens Section of the New York Times. he curated numerous exhibits at the International Center of Photography, the Jewish Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and many other institutions. He authored eleven books,which include White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness and For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Yale University Press, 2010), He was also the author of numerous essays for anthologies and exhibition catalogs.
Berger grew up poor in a predominantly black and Puerto Rican public housing project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan , an experience which helped to shape his views on race. “As a Jew, I have known anti-Semitism. As a gay man, I have known homophobia,” Berger wrote in the New York Times in 2017 about his childhood. “But neither has seemed as relentless as the racism I witnessed growing up — a steady drumbeat of slights, thinly-veiled hostility, and condescension perpetrated by even the most liberal and well-meaning people. It was painful to watch. And, as my friends let me know, considerably more painful to endure.”
One of Mr. Berger’s goals in being outspoken about issues of race, was to get others, especially white people to examine and discuss their attitudes. “White folks rarely talk about these things, either among themselves or with their friends of color.” he told the Burlington Free Press in Vermont in 2004. “It isn’t part of the social contract. and I think it has to become part of the social contract.”
He died on March 23, 2020, from complications related to COVID-19 He is survived by his husband Marvin Heiferman, also a noted curator.