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Pamela Lee Gray

wood carver, sculptor, and folk artist, was born Jesse James Aaron in Lake City, Florida, to descendants of slaves and Seminole Indians. Aaron attended school for less than one year before he was sent to work as a contract laborer for local farms. Trained as a baker when he was twenty-one years old, he found he enjoyed the creativity it required. He opened several bakeries, worked as a cook at Gainesville's Hotel Thomas from 1933 to 1937, and then cooked for a variety of fraternities and hospitals in Florida. Aaron also worked as a cook aboard the Seaboard Air Line Railroad during this time.

Aaron married Leeanna Jenkins, and when the family settled in northwest Gainesville in the 1930s they opened a nursery. From this point until 1968 when Aaron became a folk artist at the age of eighty one it is difficult to determine what is ...

Article

Baye Yimam

Ethiopian painter, diplomat, customs director, entrepreneur, linguist, university professor, and novelist, was born in Zage, Gojjam province of Ethiopia, on 10 July 1868. His father, Gebre Iyesus Denke, was a priest serving a local church, and his mother, Fenta Tehun Adego Ayechew, was presumably a housewife. In Zage, then a center of learning, Afewerq learned the painting, poetry, church music, and liturgical dancing of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian tradition.

Afewerq was related to Empress Taytu Betul, wife of Emperor Menilek (1844–1913 on account of which he was brought to the palace to continue what he had started in Zage He was later sent to Italy to further his studies at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin Upon his return from Italy he began to produce mural paintings by order of the palace and decorated the churches at Entotto then the capital city However he soon ...

Article

Diane Mutti Burke

fugitive slave, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on a plantation owned by the Delaney family. Despite his memories of being well treated, his father, Aleck, was sold to pay his master's debts and taken south. Rev. Delaney justified Aleck's sale by claiming that the literate slave had shared ideas about freedom with other slaves in the neighborhood. When Rev. Delaney died in 1831, Alexander's mother, Chloe, was left to Mrs. Delaney, and eighteen-year-old Alexander was left to the master's son, Thomas. Chloe Alexander died six months after Thomas Delaney took her son with him to Missouri.

Delaney settled in western St Charles County Missouri where Alexander married a local slave woman named Louisa He later sold Alexander to Louisa s master Jim Hollman when he moved from the state and the couple spent the next twenty years living with their growing family on the Hollman farm Alexander was ...

Article

Pauline de Souza

was born in Trinidad, Cuba, in 1970. In 1994 he graduated from the Superior Institute of Art in Havana. In 1992, while still studying, he joined Los Carpinteros (The Carpenters), a Havana art collective. In 1994 the group decided that they would only sign their work as a collective. For them, art, whether physical or conceptual, was about collaboration. They intended to challenge cultural assumptions about cityscapes and public spaces by creating architecture that would get people to really look at their surroundings and the buildings.

Arrechea’s career as an artist took off when he received a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Culture, allowing him to spend five months in Spain. International recognition of Los Carpinteros occurred in 1998, when they showed at the International Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO), held in Madrid, Spain. They gained further recognition with their installation Transportable City (Ciudad transportable ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

singer and member of the Supremes, was born in Rosetta, Mississippi, the eighth child of Jessie and Lurlee Ballard. In 1953 the Ballards, following the Great Migration path taken by millions of African Americans, moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Jessie Ballard worked in an automobile factory until his death in 1959. The family lived in the Brewster-Douglass Projects, and Ballard's powerful singing voice distinguished her both in school and around the neighborhood. Two of her neighbors, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, who were members of the local singing group the Primes, told their manager, Milton Jenkins, about Ballard, and Jenkins was impressed enough to book Ballard—still in her teens—as a solo act at the Primes' performances.

This early connection between Ballard and the Primes is vitally important both to Ballard s career and to the history of American popular music for two reasons First the Primes would ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

artist, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James F. Bell and Susanna County, probably laborers. Little is known about Bell's early life. She presumably attended segregated schools. It is unlikely that she ever received artistic training; she declared that she drew “without human teaching.” She probably worked as a domestic servant, laundress, or seamstress, beginning in her teenage years, and she may have traveled extensively. Bell said she “lived all around” before World War I. Since she does not appear in early-twentieth-century city directories or census records in Washington, D.C., or Boston, Massachusetts, and because she apparently never married or had children, it is likely that she resided with her various employers.

By the mid-1920s Bell was working for Edward Peter Pierce, justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1914 to 1937, and Adele Dutaud Pierce his wife as a live ...

Article

Rita Kohn

designer, businesswoman, and civic leader, was born Alpha Coles in Lynchburg, Virginia, the youngest of eight children of Alphonso Carroll Coles and Minnie Pugh Coles. Growing up, Blackburn attended a segregated school system, and went on to win a scholarship to Howard University, from which she graduated with honors, attaining a bachelor of arts in Design and a master of fine arts in painting and Art History. In 1964 she moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband, Walter Scott Blackburn, who had completed his degree in architecture at Howard. She commenced work as a freelance designer of clothing and interiors.

Blackburn's petite figure and radiant good looks created opportunities for her to model, and she accepted a steady job at the prestigious L. S. Ayres & Company in downtown Indianapolis. Concurrently, she hosted a half‐hour daily talk show from 1972 to 1978, Indy Today on WISH ...

Article

Nancy T. Robinson

historian, collector, archivist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born Wallace Michael Branch in Brooklyn, New York, one of two sons of Byrd Branch, an entrepreneur who operated a cleaning and tailoring business in New York City and held down a thirty-five-year job at the weekly newspaper Irish Echo to support his family, and Vera Barbour Branch. In Brooklyn, Branch and his family lived a solid middle-class lifestyle, making their home in a four-floor brownstone home that they owned.

Branch was born with sickle cell anemia a hereditary incurable chronic disorder with which patients suffer severe pain and tissue and organ damage as a result of oxygen and nutrient deficiencies At the time of Branch s birth information about and treatment of the disease were limited According to his family doctors who treated Branch as a child never gave him much hope for survival At fourteen Branch became so ill that he ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

draftsman, lithographer, painter, and entrepreneur, was born free in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Brown and Wilhelmina (maiden name unknown). Nothing is known about Brown's family or childhood. It appears that in the mid-1850s, Brown moved to San Francisco on the heels of the gold rush. While black fur traders, including Edward Rose and Jim Beckwourth, had already explored the West by the mid-1850s, few African Americans were living in California before this time. By 1860, though, close to five thousand blacks had moved to California, including Mary Ellen Pleasant and Edmond Wysinger. Just what precipitated Brown's decision to move to San Francisco is unknown, but records show that by 1861 he was employed as a draftsman for the commercial lithography firm of Kuchel and Dressel While his skill is evidenced by the quality work he produced for the firm Brown must also have been considered a ...

Article

Ingrid Schorr

curator, fashion designer, dancer, and artist, was born James Watson in rural Woodruff, South Carolina, to sharecropper parents whose names are unknown. Little information about his early years is available except that he attended the Fashion Institute of New York and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before moving to New York in the 1960s.

As Chanticleer established himself as a fashion designer in New York City he also began to propagate the biographical embellishments and falsehoods that would be repeated until his death: that he was born in Harlem to a Barbadian concert pianist and a Haitian high school principal; that he completed a master's degree at the Sorbonne; that as a five-year-old he designed a prize-winning folding chair for a competition at the 1940 World's Fair.

Whether or not he grew up in Harlem Chanticleer identified so strongly with its place at the center of black history and ...

Article

Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

typesetter, potter, and poet, was born and lived his entire life in and around Edgefield, South Carolina, an important center for pottery production in the nineteenth century. Dave's parents were slaves belonging to Samuel Landrum, a Scottish immigrant who had moved his family and slaves to Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1773. The outlines of Dave's life story can be traced through the business activities and legal papers of his various owners, oral history from Edgefield, and Dave's own pottery upon which he inscribed sayings, verses, and dates.

After moving to Edgefield the Landrum family became involved in the making of pottery and other entrepreneurial enterprises. Amos and Abner Landrum, sons of Samuel, became partners with a third man, Harvey Drake, in a pottery concern. Dave first appears in the legal record in a 13 June 1818 mortgage agreement between Harvey Drake and Eldrid Simkins both ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Freed Black slave from British Guiana (now Guyana) who taught the evolutionist Charles Darwin taxidermy. Edmonstone was taken to Glasgow by his slave owner, Charles Edmonstone, probably in 1817. He was taught taxidermy by the explorer, naturalist, and conservationist Charles Waterton, who had travelled extensively in South and North America. Edmonstone moved to Edinburgh in 1823, where he still resided in 1833. He was hired by Darwin, author of The Origin of Species (1859), to teach him taxidermy while Darwin was studying medicine at Edinburgh University. From 1824 to 1825 Edmonstone lived at 37 Lothian Street in close proximity to the university and to Darwin s residence Darwin was an outspoken critic of slavery and had long conversations with Edmonstone about the latter s experiences as a slave and his life in British Guiana These conversations probably helped to shape Darwin s ...

Article

Deborah Willis

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 ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

, a survivor of the slave trade, was born somewhere in Africa around 1710. Practically no sources exist on the first six decades of his life. Fortune only emerged in a legal document prepared by his former master Ichabod Richardson in Woburn, Massachusetts, on 30 December 1763. Massachusetts then was a British colony in North America. Richardson declared he “agreed to and with my Negroe man, Amos, that at the end of four years next insuing this date the said Amos shall be Discharged, Freed, and Set at Liberty from my service power & Command for ever.” However, Richardson never signed this statement. When he died in 1768 he made no reference in his will to Fortune s freedom Fortune had worked as a tanner with Richardson and probably used his own skills to make enough money to pay off Richardson s heirs At roughly sixty years of ...

Article

Margit Liander

Amos Fortune was born in Africa; at fifteen he was captured and taken into slavery. Eventually sold to Ichabod Richardson of Woburn, Massachusetts, Fortune learned the tanning trade from his master. After working for him for forty years, Fortune was able to purchase his own freedom at the age of sixty. He went into business for himself, paid his church and town taxes in Woburn, and at the age of sixty-eight purchased Lydia Somerset, a slave, and married her. Somerset soon died and Fortune bought and married Violate Baldwin and moved to Jaffrey, New Hampshire with her and her daughter, Celyndia, whom he adopted.

Fortune became a successful tanner, bought land, and built a house. He aided local blacks by training apprentice tanners and by taking the indigent into his home. On January 28, 1796 Fortune participated in a meeting of local citizens who voted to establish ...

Article

Jeffry D. Schantz

tanner and bookbinder, was born in Africa and brought to the colonies as a slave while very young. Nothing is known of Fortune's parentage, birth, or early years. It is thought that he arrived in America around 1725, but little is known of his life in the colonies prior to the mid-1700s. Ichabod Richardson of Woburn, Massachusetts, purchased Fortune around 1740, kept him as a slave apprentice, and taught him the art of tanning. In December 1763 Richardson drafted a “freedom paper” granting Fortune's freedom but died without signing it. Fortune remained a slave of the Richardson family until 1770, when a valid article of manumission signed by Ichabod's sister-in-law, Hannah, secured his freedom.

Remaining in Woburn for several years, Fortune purchased a small homestead from Isaac Johnson in 1774 and continued to run the Richardsons tannery During his Woburn years Fortune married twice ...

Article

Jeffry D. Schantz

Fortune, Amos (1710?–17 November 1801), tanner and bookbinder, was born in Africa and brought to the colonies as a slave while very young. Nothing is known of Fortune’s parentage, birth, or early years. It is estimated that he arrived in America around 1725, but little is known of his life in the colonies prior to the mid-1700s. Ichabod Richardson of Woburn, Massachusetts, purchased Fortune around 1740, kept him as a slave apprentice, and taught him the art of tanning. In December 1763 Richardson drafted a “freedom paper” granting Fortune’s freedom but died without signing it. Fortune remained a slave of the Richardson family until 1770, when a valid article of manumission signed by Ichabod’s sister-in-law, Hannah, secured his freedom.

Remaining in Woburn for several years Fortune purchased a small homestead from Isaac Johnson in 1774 and continued to run the Richardson s tannery During his Woburn years ...

Article

Scott A. Miltenberger

Little is definitively known of Amos Fortune, who lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Purportedly an African prince sold into slavery at a young age, Amos spent fifteen years as a slave of the Boston bookbinder Deacon Fortune. In the course of his servitude, Amos learned to read and write and converted to Christianity.

In 1738Ichabod Richardson, a tanner living in Woburn, Massachusetts, apparently purchased Amos and began to train him in his profession. In his will, Richardson granted Amos his freedom in 1768, but two years passed before Richardson's heirs lived up to the promise, in fact requiring Amos to purchase his freedom. In 1778 he purchased the freedom of another slave, Lydia Somerset, and married her; within a few months, however, she died. A year later Fortune purchased and married another woman, Violate Baldwin in ...

Article

Patricia Brady

sculptor and proprietor of a large marble yard and monument business, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the eldest son and third child of [René] Prosper Foy (b. 1787–d. 1854), a Napoleonic veteran, marble cutter, businessman, and writer, who had immigrated to the city from France in 1807, and Azelie Aubry (b. c. 1795–d. 1870), a free woman of color, native to New Orleans. Because interracial marriage was illegal, Foy's parents never married, but their sometimes stormy union lasted from 1810 until Prosper Foy's death; Aubry subsequently referred to herself in all public documents as his widow. The elder Prosper Foy prospered in business and fought with distinction at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Of Foy and Aubry's children, four daughters and Florville lived to adulthood.

Florville studied with a private tutor, and all the children were well educated, judging by their copybooks and letters. In 1836 ...