Souls Grown Deep advocates the inclusion of Black artists from the South in the canon of American art history and fosters economic empowerment, racial and social justice, and educational advancement in the communities that gave rise to these artists. Souls Grown Deep derives its name from a 1921 poem by Langston Hughes (1902-67) titled The Negro Speaks of Rivers, the last line of which is "My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
Souls Grown Deep stewards the largest and foremost collection of works by Black artists from the Southern United States, encompassing over 1,000 works by more than 160 artists. Soon after its founding in 2010 by Atlanta collector William S. Arnett, Souls Grown Deep began a multi-year program to transfer the majority of works in its care to the permanent collections of leading American and international art museums. To date, this program has led to the acquisition of over 500 works by more than 110 artists from the Foundation’s collection by more than 40 museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the High Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art, as well as multiple major exhibitions and publications. Souls Grown Deep anticipates facilitating acquisitions of hundreds more artworks by dozens of museums over the next several years.