Michael Moses '85 Curating His Own History

September 23, 2022

Whittier alumnus Michael Moses '85 pays tribute to his father with a new exhibit, Paul B. Moses: Trailblazing Art Historian, on display at the University of Chicago. 

Paul B. Moses with Michael Moses, c. 1964. (Collection of Michael A. Moses)
Paul B. Moses with Michael Moses,                       
c. 1964 ​​​(Collection of Michael A. Moses)

Art historian Paul B. Moses' life was defined by the barriers he overcame. Born to working-class parents, he excelled at school and became the first African-American student to attend Haverford College. After college, he served in the U.S. Army and taught at an international school in Rome. In 1959 he enrolled at Harvard University, where he earned a Master’s degree began a dissertation on the French Impressionist Edgar Degas. In 1962, Moses and his wife Alice Johnson, an accomplished elementary school teacher, moved to Hyde Park when he was hired as an instructor in the University of Chicago’s Department of Art.

Along the way he distinguished himself through innovative teaching and research, wrote and lectured widely on art, and produced numerous oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings. In 1966, at the age of 36, Moses’ life was tragically cut short when he was murdered by two young white men who intended to steal his car.

Paul Moses' legacy "as an exemplary scholar, educator, and critic" is presented through the writings, photographs, video and audio clips, personal correspondence, ephemera, and original art he left behind. The unique exhibit, co-curated by his son Michael Moses, is on display at the Joseph Regenstein Library, the main library of the University of Chicago, until December 16, 2022. 

Michael Moses is the current president of the Whittier College Black Alumni Association. He is a teacher and soccer coach at the University of Chicago Lab Schools.