Term used to describe art made by Americans of African descent. While the crafts of African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continued largely to reflect African artistic traditions (see Africa, §VIII), the earliest fine art made by professional African American artists was in an academic Western style (see fig.).
Regenia A. Perry, Camara Dia Holloway, Christina Knight, Dele Jegede, Bridget R. Cooks, and Jenifer P. Borum
Camara Dia Holloway
photographer, was born in New York City to Virginia Allen, a dressmaker who migrated from the British Virgin Islands in 1900, and an unidentified father. James attended Dewitt Clinton High School, where he discovered photography through the school's camera club, the Amateur Cinema League. The school was fertile ground for several members of the upcoming Harlem Renaissance, including the poet Countee Cullen, whose first published piece appeared in the school magazine, the Magpie. The artist Charles Alston also developed his talents as the art editor for the Magpie and leader of the art club. In 1923 Allen began a four year apprenticeship at Stone Van Dresser and Company a white owned illustration firm where he received additional instruction in photography Louis Collins Stone the firm s owner and a portrait painter and his wife seem to have taken a personal interest in Allen and ...
Born free in Virginia, James Presley Ball opened several short-lived businesses in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1845, 1847, and 1849. Two years later he established his first successful photography studio, which prospered until the early 1870s. Active in the movement for Abolitionism in the United States, he commissioned a 2,400 sq ft painted antislavery panorama, Ball's Splendid Mammoth Pictorial Tour of the United States Comprising Views of the African Slave Trade; of Northern and Southern Cities; of Cotton and Sugar Plantations; of the Mississippi, Ohio and Susquehanna Rivers, Niagara Falls (1855).
In 1887 Ball became the official photographer for a celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After his move to Helena, Montana that same year, he was elected to several local political and civic positions. Ball moved to Seattle, Washington, around 1900 and opened Globe Studios He ...
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Cornelius Battey was well known for his photographic portraiture in New York City and Cleveland, Ohio by the age of twenty-seven. At his popular portrait studio on New York's Mott Street, he photographed such well-known people as African American orator and author Frederick Douglass ...
Amalia K. Amaki
photographer and businessman, was born in New Orleans, where he remained professionally based throughout his sixty-plus-year career.
The leading African American photographer in New Orleans in the first half of the twentieth century, Bedou saw his reputation grow to national proportions as a result of his images of the life and travel of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University) President Booker T. Washington from the early 1900s through 1915. He photographed Washington at public-speaking engagements addressing crowds in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, California, and numerous other locations during his final tour, which ended in 1915. He recorded Washington in transit by coach, train, and automobile in addition to his famous portraits of the education leader posed upon his horse.
As official photographer for the Institute, Bedou covered any number of events for the school. He recorded the 24 October 1905 ...
Lisa Kay Davis
photographer and writer, was born in Jackson, Mississippi, the eldest son of eight children of Willie Everrett Bingham, a minister and baggage handler, and Emmaline Bingham, a homemaker whose maiden name is not now known. At the age of four, Bingham and his family moved from Mississippi to Los Angeles. Young Bingham was inspired by his photographer neighbors and developed a strong interest in photography. While attending Compton Junior College in the late 1950s, Bingham, a music major, enrolled in a photography course, for which he received a failing grade. Although he eventually left college, he continued to pursue photography and began an apprenticeship at the Los Angeles Sentinel, one of the largest black‐owned newspapers in the United States. After one month at the Sentinel, he was hired as a staff photographer.
In 1962 the Sentinel sent Bingham to cover a press conference in Los ...
Samuel W. Black
photographer and fraternal leader, was born in Kearneysville, West Virginia, the eleventh of thirteen children of Allen Cole, a wagon maker, blacksmith, and carpenter, and Sarah Jenkins Cole. The Cole family numbered among the 4,045 African Americans in Jefferson County, West Virginia's most populous county in 1880. Although he came from a humble background, the elder Cole was able to send some of his children to Storer College in Harpers Ferry, eight miles east of Kearneysville. Allen “Allie” Cole was enrolled at Storer in October 1900, following his older brother Hughes and older sister Lucy, both of whom attended in the early 1890s. The first school of higher education for African Americans in West Virginia, Storer College was founded in Harpers Ferry in 1867 under the condition that it did not discriminate by race gender or color At Storer Cole completed courses in industrial ...
Jason Philip Miller
photographer, was born in Columbus, Ohio. Details about Cowans's upbringing and early education are difficult to come by. He attended local schools and around 1954 matriculated to Ohio University, where he undertook a study of photography. There he fell under the influence and tutelage of the great Clarence White Jr., one of the founders (along with Alfred Stieglitz and others) of the Photo-Secession movement, which helped to solidify photography as a legitimate art form. He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in Photography in 1958 and subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Navy, which he served as a photographer until his discharge in 1960.
Upon leaving military service, Cowans removed to New York, intent on pursuing a career in photography. There he landed a job at Life magazine, at the time perhaps the most famous and widely distributed photo magazine in the United States. With Life ...
photographer, artist, and educator, was born in Harlem, New York City, the only child of Andrew DeCarava and Elfreda Ferguson. DeCarava never knew his father; his mother worked as a clerical worker for the Work Projects Administration.
Elfreda DeCarava arrived in New York from Jamaica as the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North was transforming Harlem into a predominantly African American community. She tried to foster her son's creativity as a single mother when he was a boy by getting him a violin and an expensive velvet short suit, in which he said he used to run through Harlem to get to practice. While DeCarava never became a violinist, he became actively interested in and a part of a wide range of artistic endeavors from sketching to movies.
As an eight year old boy he used chalk or pieces of Plaster ...
photographer, was born on 17 May 1874 in Innishannon, County Cork, Ireland, the son of a resident magistrate. Educated at Mount Saint Mary’s College, a Jesuit school in Derbyshire, England, as a young man he began training for the priesthood. In 1897, however, he had a change of heart and left for South Africa, finding work as a compound guard on the diamond mines of the De Beers Company in Kimberley. He later worked in the dispensary of the compound hospital and the copy room at the company’s head office, as well as serving in both the Anglo-Boer War and World War I.
It was on a return trip to Europe in 1904 that he became interested in photography buying a simple box camera and making his first photographs in Madeira He soon mastered the technical side of the medium and became a keen amateur photographing scenery botany ...
James Conway Farley was born to slave parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia, on August 10, 1854. Following the death of his father, Farley and his mother moved in 1861 to Richmond, Virginia, where his mother was a storeroom keeper at the Columbia Hotel. He assisted in making candles, learned to read and write, and attended public schools for three years. After working briefly with a baker, he was employed in 1872 in the chemical department of the photographic establishment of C. R. Rees and Company in downtown Richmond. During a number of years after 1875, he set the scene and made photographs for the G. W. Davis Photograph Gallery, also in downtown Richmond on Broad Street. In 1895 he opened his own studio, the Jefferson Fine Arts Gallery.
For thirty five years Farley prospered in a profession that had few black men When four white ...
Donna M. Wells
artist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Thomas Freeman and Sarah Freeman. Following his father's death, in 1877 he and his sister Delilah moved with their mother to Washington, where Freeman attended Washington, D.C., public schools and excelled in drawing and painting. It is not known if he finished high school. He held a variety of jobs, including laborer and waiter, to help support the family.
In 1885, at the age of seventeen, Freeman started to advertise his services as a painter in addition to art framer and bicycle repairman. Gradually he began to pursue a career as an artist and photographer. His early work consisted of pastel drawings of Washington's elite African American community. His most famous portraits were of the Washington lawyer John Mercer Langston, completed in 1893, and of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1895 That ...
photographer, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and attended Howard High School in Chattanooga. His parents were King and Hattie Murfrees Ganaway. Ganaway did not go to college, although his sister, Mamie Egester, graduated from college in Chattanooga. He worked as a butler from 1906 to 1925 for Mary A. Lawrence, the widow of Edward F. Lawrence, a prominent Chicagoan, who lived on Lake Shore Drive, Chicago's “Gold Coast.” During these years, he tried to revive a childhood interest in drawing, but frustrated with his efforts, he turned to photography. He was self-taught, spending his off days perfecting his photographic skills.
Ganaway's photo, “Spirit of Transportation”—an image of two sections of a passenger train, the 20th Century Limited, arriving in Chicago on a cold day in February 1918 captivated the media when it won the first prize in the fifteenth annual exhibition of photographs at ...
Robert L. Gale
bibliophile, researcher, and photographer, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Jacob Gardiner and Martha (maiden name unknown). In 1902 he and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From childhood he was interested in reading, cross-country running, hiking, camping, and bicycling. Later he developed an interest in music, choir singing, and photography. Racial discrimination kept him from attending the photography school of his choice in Philadelphia, to his great disappointment. In the early 1900s he began to collect material of various kinds concerning black achievements, black institutions, and the lynching of blacks.
From about 1908 to 1923 Gardiner attended meetings of the Philadelphia Afro American Historical Society later the American Negro Historical Society expressed his ideas and described his findings in what he called race literature He continued to build his collection of black memorabilia and helped to form a group of bibliophiles ...
Lisa Aronson and Martha Anderson
professional photographer, was born in Bonny, Nigeria, in 1873 the son of a successful Ibani Ijo palm oil trader named Chief Sunju Dublin Green who worked closely with expatriate traders and missionaries These relationships may have greatly benefited his son s career The imported obelisk style tombstone that marks Green s grave in his hometown of Bonny identifies him as a professional artist photographer His only known self portrait shows him at the age of twenty one dressed in a respectable Western style suit vest and necktie with a boutonniere in his lapel Green attended the Church Missionary Society CMS High School in Bonny and it may have been Sierra Leonians affiliated with the CMS who taught him photography He served as the primary photographer for the British as well as his own people between the early 1890s and his untimely death at the age of thirty two Although ...
Michelle K. Massie
photojournalist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three sons of William A. and Ella Mae (Taliaferro) Harris. His parents operated the Masio Hotel on Wylie Avenue in Pittsburgh's famed Hill District neighborhood. During the early twentieth century, the Hill District was the mecca of African American life in Pittsburgh. The neighborhood attracted poor and working-class blacks as well as the elites of the sports and entertainment worlds, for it was an area where blacks freely socialized, shopped, worshipped, owned businesses, and lived without having to confront many of the harsh realities of the segregated city. It was this exposure to the richness of black life that influenced Harris's forty-year career as a photojournalist and portrait photographer.
Harris got his nickname at the age of two from a female relative who called him Teenie Little Lover It was later shortened to Teenie Harris came of age during ...
athlete, photographer, and poet, was born Gilbert Heron in Kingstown, Jamaica. Though he was a talented photographer, particularly of sporting events, and a notable poet, publishing a collection entitled I Shall Wish Just for You as late as 1992, Heron's fame derives from neither. He remains best known as a pioneering nonwhite sportsman in the United Kingdom in the 1950s and as father to the eclectic, prolific, and hugely influential jazz musician and wordsmith Gil Scott-Heron.
Heron came to attention as an association football or soccer player for the Detroit Corinthians although he had previously turned out for the Canadian Air Force Detroit Wolverines and Chicago Sting Standing just below five feet ten inches and weighing just under 178 pounds Heron had the speed and agility that gave him the perfect characteristics for football s target man and goal scorer the center forward In the ...
jazz bassist, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother played piano and organ and directed the church choir. Hinton moved with his family to Chicago when he was eleven years old. Two years later he began studying violin, sticking with it for four years. While attending Chicago's Wendell Phillips High Schools, he learned to play bass horn, cello, tuba, and string bass. He went to Crane Junior College (now Malcolm X College) from 1929 to 1930.
By then Hinton was already working in Chicago-area clubs, doubling on bass and tuba; he would give up the latter within a couple of years. He gained important early experience working with Freddie Keppard, Jabbo Smith, Art Tatum, Fate Marable, Erskine Tate's orchestra, and the pianist Tiny Parham, making his recording debut with Parham in 1930. His main job between 1931 and 1936 was with the ...
Pamela Lee Gray
dancer, painter, choreographer, actor, author, photographer, director, musician, and costume and set designer, was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He was one of four children of middle-class parents of Irish, French, and African descent.
Holder was educated at Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain. His grandfather, Louis Ephraim, was a French painter whose influence led both Holder and his older brother Boscoe to begin experimenting with oils Geoffrey began teaching himself to paint at age fifteen when he was forced to stay home from school due to a prolonged illness He also learned much from Boscoe who was a pianist painter and dancer When Boscoe moved to England Geoffrey took over as director of his brother s dance company while continuing to create new paintings and display work at gallery exhibitions Holder s work was displayed at ...
jazz and soul pianist and singer, was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He was self-taught on the piano other than four piano lessons. McCann sang and played piano from an early age. In the early 1950s he left the South to join the U.S. Navy. McCann was stationed near San Francisco, where he had an opportunity to see major jazz artists in local clubs, including Miles Davis and the pianist whom he considered his earliest influence, Erroll Garner. In 1956 he won a talent contest sponsored by the navy that led to him appearing on television as a singer on The Ed Sullivan Show.
After his discharge later that year McCann settled in Los Angeles. He attended music school and worked toward forming his own trio. Miles Davis recommended him to Cannonball Adderley leading to Adderley offering McCann a chance to join his quintet However McCann turned ...