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Glenn Allen Knoblock

artist and political activist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1937 Bolden received a four‐year scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, where he majored in illustration and advertising design. Upon his graduation he became an artist and layout designer for a top advertising agency in Philadelphia. His duties included prep work for original work by Norman Rockwell. In fact Bolden and Rockwell became close friends, and it was Rockwell who “encouraged Bolden to use neighbors and local townspeople as models for his art,” according to a New Hampshire Circle of Friends flyer.

After World War II Mel Bolden moved to New York and became a full‐time illustrator, working first for black newspapers, then for such general magazines as Fortune, Saturday Review, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post, Boy's Life, as well as for major newspapers like the New York Times and the New York ...

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Michelle K. Massie

teacher and legislator, was born Kirkland Leroy Irvis in Saugerties, New York, the older of Francis H. and Harriet Ten Broeck Cantine Irvis's two children. Francis was self-employed, and Harriet was a homemaker. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Albany, New York. While Irvis's father instilled in his children the value of education, his mother taught them the importance of art and human emotion. Her lessons would inspire Irvis to become a renowned wood sculptor and published poet. He graduated from Albany High School with honors in 1934 and went on to attend New York State College for Teachers (later SUNY), where he graduated summa cum laude in 1938 with an AB in History.

The harsh realities of racism that his parents tried to shield from him as a child would meet him head on as an adult Denied teaching positions upon graduation Irvis went back to ...

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Jennifer Drake

poet, visual artist, performer, and bohemian citizen of the world, was born Theodore Jones in Cairo, Illinois, to parents who worked on Mississippi riverboats. While little is known about Joans's childhood, two stories circulate widely. The first is that he was born on a riverboat; the second is that his father, a riverboat entertainer, gave the twelve-year-old Joans a trumpet and dropped him off in Memphis, Tennessee, to make his own way in the world. It has been documented that Joans's father was murdered in the 1943 Detroit race riots, and various autobiographical writings indicate that Joans spent some of his childhood in Indiana and Kentucky.

After earning his BFA in painting from Indiana University in 1951, Joans moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a central figure in the Beat scene. He associated with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg who would first ...

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Todd Palmer

artist, was born Norman Wilfred Lewis in Harlem, New York, the second of three boys born to Wilfred Lewis and Diana Lewis (maiden name unknown). From his earliest school days, Lewis observed how people formed group identities––and noticed the ways he didn't belong. He recalled that Harlem during his boyhood was an Italian and Jewish place where “the only Negroes … were [building] superintendents.” Later, as white ethnic residents moved away and more African Americans arrived, he recognized differences within Harlem's “new Negro” community. Lewis was keen to the ways his family's immigrant outlook was distinct from blacks with U.S. roots: his parents came to Harlem from Bermuda, where his father had been a fisherman and his mother ran her own bakery.

At nine years old Lewis discovered a desire to paint But his father warned that his racial identity would be an intractable obstacle and admonished Lewis for ...

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Paul Von Blum

art historian, educator, curator, and artist, was born Samella Sanders in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Samuel Sanders, a strawberry farm owner and Rachel (Taylor) Sanders, a seamstress. Lewis's childhood in New Orleans exposed her to black history, culture, and art—a background that informed all of her professional activities. Her early experiences with segregation catalyzed the powerful antiracist vision that influenced her entire life. For example, as a young art student, she encountered a major barrier in visiting the Delgado Art Museum, located in a municipal park reserved exclusively for whites. Her teacher, Elizabeth Catlett managed to secure a bus and had everyone in her class move directly from the bus to the museum technically avoiding the racial restrictions of the park itself Lewis began her formal art studies at Dillard University studying with Catlett who became her lifelong friend and mentor ...

Article

folk artist, community activist, and Mardi Gras Indian leader, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Alfred Montana, “Big Chief” of the Yellow Pocahontas, a leading Mardi Gras Indian organization, and Alice Herrere Montana, both natives of New Orleans. When he was young, one of his cousins nicknamed him Tootie, and the name stuck. Masking as Mardi Gras Indians ran deep in the Montana family. Tootie was a third-generation black Indian leader. His great-uncle Becate Batiste was the legendary founding Big Chief of the Creole Wild West, the city's first and oldest masking Indian society; his father Alfred Montana was a famous leader of the Yellow Pocahontas, which was an offshoot of the Creole Wild West; but Tootie eventually surpassed both by far in terms of craftsmanship, influence, and fame.

The Mardi Gras Indian culture developed as an expression of black resistance ...

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J. Deborah Johnson Sterrett

painter and sculptor, was born in Gloster, Mississippi, the fourth of six children to Reverend James W. Washington, a cabinetmaker and an associate minister at the Gloster Baptist Church, and Lizzie, a homemaker. The birth year for Washington has been reported between 1909 and 1911 Washington made a futile effort to obtain a birth certificate and is reported to have rejected the notion of chronological age In the rural segregated town of Gloster Washington endured poverty unequal education and racially fueled terrorism that propelled him into a lifetime fight for social justice As a boy of six he saw his father under threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced to flee town in the trunk of a white friend s car Wasington never saw him again Without his father Washington forged a greater bond with his mother whom he credits for nurturing his natural talents in the ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

artist and teacher, was born in Cairo, Illinois, the only child of Augusta (Bell) Woodruff, a domestic worker, and George Woodruff, who died when his son was quite young. After his father's death, Woodruff and his mother moved to east Nashville, Tennessee. Art instruction was not available in his segregated public school, so Woodruff drew on his own, mostly copying from books, and later as a cartoonist for his high school newspaper.

After graduating from high school in 1918, Woodruff moved to Indianapolis, Illinois, where he held several menial jobs while living at the YMCA. From 1920 to 1922 he studied landscape painting with William Forsyth at the Herron School of Art, while drawing weekly cartoons for the local African American newspaper, The Indianapolis Ledger After a short stint in Chicago where he studied briefly at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago he returned ...