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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 ...

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Michael Bieze

artist, was born in Colquitt County, Georgia, son of John Henry Adams, a former slave and preacher in the Methodist Church, and Mittie Rouse. Many questions surround Adams's early life. While he reported in an Atlanta Constitution article (23 June 1902) that he came from a humble background, his father served parishes throughout Georgia. According to the History of the American Negro and His Institutions (1917), Adams Sr. was a man of accomplishment, leading black Georgians in a colony in Liberia for two years and receiving two honorary doctorates, from Bethany College and Morris Brown University. Educated in Atlanta schools, Adams claimed in the Atlanta Constitution article to have traveled to Philadelphia in the late 1890s to take art classes at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (later Drexel University). Drexel, established in 1891 opened its doors to a diverse student ...

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Rebecca Martin Nagy

Ethiopian artist, was born in Ankober in Shewa Province, Ethiopia. As a young student Afewerk excelled in mathematics and draftsmanship. Recognizing these talents, the government of Emperor Haile Selassie provided a scholarship in 1947 for Afewerk to study mining engineering in England. Showing great promise as a visual artist, Afewerk soon received the emperor’s permission to transfer to London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts. Subsequently, he attended the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. While studying there, he made several trips to the European continent to see and experience works of art firsthand.

Afewerk’s first solo exhibition of paintings in Addis Ababa, held at Municipality Hall in 1954 was not universally well received In particular an abstract interpretation of the Crucifixion inspired by European modernism now in the National Museum of Ethiopia was the subject of debate and controversy in a city with a centuries old ...

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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 ...

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Rebecca Martin Nagy

Ethiopian artist, was born in the Gondar Administrative Region of Ethiopia in 1905. Another form of his name is Agegnehu Engeda. Although relatively little is known about his life and work, Agegnehu’s role as a pioneer among twentieth-century Ethiopian painters is noteworthy. At a time when the only opportunity for higher learning in Ethiopia was in church schools and the only training available to aspiring painters was through apprenticeship to church artists, the young Agegnehu Engida was sent to Paris to study painting at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1926 to 1933. According to Ladislas Farago, who interviewed Agegnehu in his home in Addis Ababa soon after the artist’s return from France, Agegnehu’s artistic abilities had been recognized by Haile Selassie, who arranged for him to study abroad. In 1926 Ras Tafari Mekonnen the future Emperor Haile Selassie was regent to Empress Zawditu and heir apparent to ...

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Emad Abdul-Latif

Egyptian poet, critic, broadcaster, painter, and physician, was born in the al-Hanafy district in Cairo. His father, Muhammad Abu Shadi, was the head of the Egyptian Bar Association and his mother, Amina Naguib, was a poetess. He completed his primary and secondary education in Cairo and was involved in antioccupation activities during his adolescence. He joined the faculty of medicine (named Qasr al-Aini) and then traveled to London in 1912 to complete his studies in medicine at the University of London where he obtained a certificate of honor from Saint George Hospital in 1915. He married a British woman and lived with her in Egypt until her death in 1945. Following his return to Egypt in 1922, he served in many governmental posts in such places as the Ministry of Health and the Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University. In 1946 he immigrated to the United States ...

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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 ...

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Marion Arnold

South African sculptor and multimedia artist, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her father’s family emigrated from Germany (her paternal grandfather was Jewish). She studied at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree and the Martienssen Student Prize in 1982 and completing her masters degree in 1988. She taught English and art at schools in Namibia and Cape Town before joining the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, as a part-time lecturer in 1996. She holds a professorship in sculpture and is resident in Cape Town. An intensely private person, Alexander rarely gives interviews or explains her work verbally.

In 1986 Alexander gained attention with a solo exhibition in Johannesburg. It included Butcher Boys (1985–1986 a disquieting depiction of three white life size naturalistic figures seated on a bench These self absorbed beings possessing animal and ...

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Robert Fay

Alston was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a teenager, he served as the art editor for his high school's annual magazine. Alston earned both his undergraduate and M.A. degrees from Columbia University in New York City. He gained popular recognition for his cover illustrations for the periodicals The New Yorker and Collier's. In the 1930s Alston taught at the Harlem Art Workshop, where he was a proponent of muralism as a black art form, and from 1935 to 1936 Alston directed the Harlem Hospital murals for the Federal Arts Project. In 1950 he became the first African American teacher at the Art Students League in New York. His best-known works are the paintings Family and Walking, which are noted for their figurative content, sculptural form, and brilliant color, and which portray the experiences of African American families in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Sarah Wolozin

artist, was born in Madison, Georgia, the second of ten children of Viola Perryman and George Andrews, sharecroppers. Benny Andrews grew up in a household where creativity was encouraged. With what little money they had, his parents bought pens and paper for their children and encouraged them to draw and tell stories. Although not formally trained as an artist, George Andrews painted throughout his life and received considerable recognition in his later years. As a teenager Benny Andrews attended Burney Street High School only sporadically, when weather conditions excused him from his work picking cotton in the fields. In 1948 he became the first member of his family to graduate from high school.

In 1948Andrews moved to Atlanta and was awarded a 4 H club scholarship to attend one of Georgia s three black colleges He entered Fort Valley State College in Fort Valley Georgia but dropped ...

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Ana Raquel Fernandes

Pan‐Africanist and the first black person to hold civic office in Britain. He was born in Liverpool, the son of a Barbadian, Richard Archer, and an Irishwoman, Mary Theresa Burns, but little is known of his early life, though he is believed to have lived in North America and the West Indies. Around 1898 he and his African‐Canadian wife, Bertha, moved to Battersea, south London, where Archer established a photographic studio. His concern to eradicate social and racial injustices led to a lifelong career in local government and national and global politics. In 1906 he was elected as a Progressive (Liberal) councillor for the Latchmere ward, and in 1913 Archer became Mayor of Battersea, Britain's first black mayor. His interest in colonial politics led to his involvement in Pan‐Africanism. In 1900 he joined the Pan African Association and he was a significant presence at the ...

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Nicholas J. Bridger

Yoruba wood sculptor, was born in 1910 in Osi-Ilorin, now in Kwara State, Nigeria. He was the son of Areogun of Osi-Ilorin (c. 1880–1954), a significant master woodcarver of the premodern tradition of the northeast area of Yorubaland. He acquired the name George when baptized Catholic as a child, although his father remained a practitioner of the local Yoruba religion. His name is referred to in recent sources as George Bamidele Arowoogun, the patronymic added as a surname. His close collaborator and patron for four decades, Father Kevin Carroll (1920–1993), always referred to him simply as “Bandele.”

Growing up in a successful carver s household Bandele became apprenticed in his teens to one of his father s former assistants Oshamuko also from Osi Ilorin one of a group of villages called collectively Opin which was within the Ekiti region Both his familial ancestry and his artistic lineage ...

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Imani Roach

Romare Bearden was a visual artist whose career spanned the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights era, and the culture wars of the 1980s. An accomplished painter, political cartoonist, and musician, he is best known for his collages and photomontages of everyday African American life. These rigorously controlled abstractions highlight the collective aspects of Bearden’s personal experience, and are as formally indebted to the Benin Bronzes and the jazz stylings of Bessie Smith as they are to the masters of the European canon.

Like many other Great Migration–era families, the Bearden’s moved, in 1914, from Bearden’s birthplace of Charlotte, North Carolina, to New York City. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, the Bearden household became a hub for thinkers, musicians, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance, from Duke Ellington and Countee Cullen to W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes This was only the ...

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Amy Helene Kirschke

painter, printmaker, and collage artist. Romare Howard Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 12 September 1911, to Richard Howard and Bessye Bearden. Although he only spent two years in North Carolina, his grandparents conveyed a sense of history and connection to the South, a connection that was reflected in his work throughout his career. Most of his childhood and adult life were spent in New York. He moved to New York in 1914, and then to Harlem in 1920. His mother, Bessye, was elected to the New York City school board in 1922 education was of paramount importance in his family Bearden had an expansive diverse career and is considered one of the finest American artists of the twentieth century He had an interest in political social and cultural issues including the visual arts music and literature He was particularly ...

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Carmen Oquendo-Villar

José Bedia was born in Havana, Cuba, where he pursued his formal artistic education at the Academia de Artes Plásticas San Alejandro and at the Instituto Superior de Arte. He left Cuba in 1991 and spent a brief time in Mexico before establishing himself in Miami in 1993. Bedia's work—drawings on paper; oil paintings on canvas; works in ink, acrylic, charcoal, oil crayons; and installations—derives most of its power from Cuba's African heritage, sometimes bringing to mind Kongo cosmograms (geometric designs which carry religious meanings) and Abakuá (Afro-Cuban all-male secret societies) ideographic writing. Texts in Spanish, Yoruba, or Bantu languages accompany many of his pieces. Despite the deep presence of African art Bedia's work, Cuban critic Gerardo Mosquera has labeled it postmodern Kongo art because it does not pretend to be a reenactment of original African art.

Bedia s adherence to local attitudes does not prevent him ...

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Ghirmai Negash

avant-garde Eritrean novelist, playwright, and painter-cum-sculptor, was educated in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, from which he graduated in 1963 with a degree in public administration and political science. Beyene Haile lived in Addis Ababa until Eritrean independence. In 1992, he moved to Asmara, where he worked as a management consultant and trainer while still pursuing his artistic career.

Beyene Haile is the author of three Tigrinya-language novels and a play. His 1965 debut novel, Abiduʾdo Teblewo? Madness differs from conventional Tigrinya writing in at least three fundamental ways First it takes an intellectual and artist as its main character and tells his story with compelling force and narrative skill Wounded by life the central character of the novel a bohemian artist called Mezgebe uses his art to heal his wounds and those of others in a manner that borders on insanity Another ...

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Paulette Smith

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wilson Bigaud was introduced to so-called naive painting by Hector Hyppolite, one of Haiti's most famous artists. Deep melancholy and depression plagued Bigaud's exceptional but tragically short career. His famous canvas Paradis terrestre, recognized as one of the purest masterpieces of Haitian art, has single-handedly exported the magic of his vision of a black Adam to a broad international audience.

Bigaud's artistic talent was proclaimed to equal Brueghel's when he produced his Noces de Cana (Miracle of Cana, 1951), the famous 528-square-foot fresco decorating the Episcopal Cathedral of Port-au-Prince. Bigaud's impressive self-portrait (1958) best reveals the precision of his brushwork and the artist's desire for perfect control of his surroundings. In the painting he depicts himself in the apparel of the arrivé a Haitian term meaning the one who made it wearing a distinguished panama hat and dressed ...

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Sophie Sanders

artist and educator, later known as John “Anansa” Thomas Biggers, was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, to Cora Biggers, a homemaker who excelled in sewing and quiltmaking, and Paul Biggers, an educator, preacher, carpenter, and farmer. The youngest of seven children, John learned to appreciate the creativity, industry, and struggle of African American families in the example of his parents. When his father died in 1937, John was only thirteen. Cora Biggers took a job as a matron in an orphanage for black children and sent John and his brother Joe to Lincoln Academy, a boarding school that prepared black students to be teachers and ministers.

Biggers's artistic self‐discovery began in 1941 when he enrolled at a black college in Virginia Hampton Institute later Hampton University Although he intended to study the practical trade of plumbing he ultimately majored in art because he was encouraged ...

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Amy Helene Kirschke

artist. Originally from Gastonia, North Carolina, Biggers grew up in the segregated South, the youngest of seven children. His childhood was marred by tragedy, with the deaths of his sister and his father, both from diabetes. John attempted to help his mother in any way he could, often helping with the laundry she took in to support the family. These images eventually appeared in his work.

With the sole responsibility of raising her large family Biggers s mother decided to send the two youngest boys to Lincoln Academy This was an important development in John s interest in African culture The principal of the school had served as a missionary in West Africa and was determined to instill a respect and an understanding of African culture in his students Biggers had the unusual experience of learning in detail about African culture an interest that grew as he developed as ...

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Christopher Campbell

London‐born poet, printer, visionary, and ‘prophet against empire’. Over the course of his lifetime Blake confronted the horrors of slavery through his literary and pictorial art. He was able both to counter pro‐slavery propaganda and to complicate typical abolitionist verse and sentiment with a profound and unique exploration of the effects of enslavement and the varied processes of empire.

Blake's poem ‘The Little Black Boy’ from Songs of Innocence (1789 examines the mind forg d manacles of racial constructions in the minds of individuals both in the poem itself in the form of the black child and his white counterpart and also in the minds of those involved in the political dispute over abolition Seeming to explain a desire for racial acceptance and spiritual purity through assimilation into white British society and seeming also to be endorsing conventional assumptions of white racial superiority the poem ...