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Joseph S. Mella

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, and publisher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ned Adams, an electrician and occasional sign painter, and Laura. Adams first explored art making by mimicking his father, who, according to Adams, enjoyed drawing. After the divorce of his parents around 1944, Adams lived with his aunt and uncle, Claudia and Caleb Spivey. Although he sought to attend a program for gifted children at the Detroit Institute of Arts, his uncle vehemently prohibited it, preferring that Adams spend his free time working jobs such as delivering newspapers. Adams attended Northwestern High School in Detroit while continuing to live with the Spiveys until age fifteen, when he moved to his father's home.

After graduating from high school in 1951 Adams moved to Romeo Michigan a then rural town forty one miles north of Detroit There Adams worked at ...

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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 ...

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Mary Anne Boelcskevy

artist and teacher, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the youngest of five children of the prominent Episcopalian minister Primus Priss Alston and his second wife, Anna (Miller) Alston. Nicknamed “Spinky” by his father, Charles showed his artistic bent as a child by sculpting animals out of the red clay around his home. His father died suddenly when Charles was just three. In 1913 his mother married a former classmate, Harry Pierce Bearden (uncle of Romare Bearden), and the family moved to New York City. Charles's stepfather worked at the Bretton Hotel as the supervisor of elevator operators and newsstand personnel, and over the years the family lived in comfortable brownstones in better neighborhoods.

Alston attended DeWitt Clinton High School, where he was art editor of the student newspaper the Magpie during the week and he studied at the National Academy of Art on Saturdays He turned ...

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Amalia K. Amaki

sculptor, ceramicist, and educator, was one of America's most prolific and respected three‐dimensional artists in the mid‐twentieth century. Born in Washington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth Davis and Thomas Miggett, he lived primarily with his father until the fall of 1926 when he relocated to Harlem and began living with his mother and her husband, George Artis. In New York he assumed the surname of his stepfather. He attended Haaren High School and went on to study sculpture and pottery at the Augusta Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in the early 1930s, joining the ranks of Jacob Armstead Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and other notable artists whose initial studies included instruction under Savage. Artis was also a contemporary of his fellow sculptors Selma Hortense Burke and Richmond Barthé the latter the most exhibited and honored three dimensional artist associated with ...

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Hasaan A. Kirkland

football player and painter, was born Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr. in Durham, North Carolina, the son of Ernest Barnes Sr., a tobacco worker, and Fannie Mae Geer, who worked for a local legal official. On occasion Barnes talked with Mr. Fuller, his mother's employer, and from him learned about culture, art, and classical music.

Before the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 it was uncommon for African Americans in North Carolina to have access to museums or other sources of information about ancient or world cultures Segregation and racial inequalities in schools and other public institutions deprived most back children of avenues for artistic pursuits Despite such constraints Barnes s mother exposed her son to as much culture and art as she could he studied dance and horn and percussion instruments as well as the visual arts By the time ...

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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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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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Vincent F. A. Golphin

artist and creator of Luther, one of the first comic strips with African American characters to be widely published in U.S. newspapers, was born in Washington, D.C., two blocks north of Union Station, then the national capital's major transportation center. Brumsic Brandon Sr. worked there as a railway porter. Brandon Jr.'s mother, the former Pearl Brooks, was a stock clerk and maid at the Kann's Department Store.

At Charles Young Platoon Elementary School, Brandon was a high achiever who loved to draw, which inspired him to pursue art as a career. In 1942, when he entered Armstrong Technical High School, he took nearly every painting, sketching, and sculpture course. Also, at the urging of teachers, he added courses in drafting, which later made him more employable. Brandon graduated in February 1945 intent on becoming a comic strip artist but instead he became one of the first African ...

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Dália Leonardo

artist and educator, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he was ten, his family moved to Philadelphia, where he eventually attended South Philadelphia High School. In 1930 Brown graduated from the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, having specialized in public-school art education. In 1933 Brown was the first African American accepted into the Pennsylvania Public Works of Art Project a New Deal program owing in large part to the influence of Fiske Kimball who was the director of the Pennsylvania Museum of Art and an admirer of Brown s watercolors The Public Works of Art Project enabled Brown to exhibit his art in a number of venues including the Harmon Foundation in New York City Howard University the University of Pennsylvania and the Baltimore Museum of Art Kimball proved to be a steady ally inquiring about scholarship and travel funds for Brown and referring him to ...

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Robin Jones

sculptor, art educator, and mentor, was born in Mooreseville, North Carolina, one of eight children of Mary L. Elizabeth Jackson Cofield Burke a homemaker and a teacher and Neal Burke a Methodist minister Burke s artistic experiences began in childhood when she played in the pliable soil around her North Carolina home I shaped my destiny early with the clay of North Carolina rivers I loved to make the whitewash for my mother and was excited at the imprints of the clay and the malleability of the material Krantz and Koslow She was further inspired by the art objects that her father and uncles brought back with them from their travels in Africa the Caribbean and Europe As a chef aboard ships her father had the chance to both preach and explore in other countries bringing back artwork Her uncles were missionaries who traveled extensively returning with mementos that ...

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Amalia K. Amaki

painter and printmaker, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Nathan Burnett Sr., a physician and surgeon, and Adelaide Waller, a homemaker. Though his parents, especially his father, hoped he would pursue a medical or legal career, Burnett instead evinced an interest in art, one perhaps originating with his parents’ own. Calvin appreciated his father's drawings and a painting of an apple done by his mother that was displayed at their home.

As a young boy Burnett routinely copied Mickey Mouse and other characters from the comics in the Sunday paper with such skill that his parents reserved a small section of the kitchen counter for his use They also took him to area museums where he was particularly impressed with Greek sculpture and engaged in prolonged discussions with both parents about the objects on view He was further encouraged by visits to his grandparents home where some ...

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Steve Paul

expatriate writer and artist, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the only child of Joseph and Eola Carter. His mother worked in a laundry; his father was a hotel porter. For most of his boyhood, the Carters lived in a second-floor apartment at 618 Cottage Lane in Kansas City's ethnically diverse north end. Their street was an alley of bungalows and small houses that ran behind the dwellings of mostly Italian immigrants. Carter was shy, bookish, and smart, and developed a fine singing voice. As a schoolboy he liked to take Sunday outings on his own to the stately art museum, where he stared at Flemish paintings. Carter graduated from Lincoln High School in 1941 and entered the U S Army He served three years with the 509th Port Battalion mostly in France On his return he worked as a railroad cook went to college Lincoln University in ...

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Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker

prima ballerina, modern dancer, choreographer, teacher, and painter, was born Janet Fay Collins in New Orleans, the daughter of Ernest Lee Collins, a tailor, and Alma de Lavallade (the noted dancer Carmen de Lavallade was a first cousin on this side of the family), a seamstress. At the age of four Collins moved to Los Angeles with her family, which included three sisters and one brother. In Los Angeles, Collins had trouble being accepted into “whites-only” dance studios, so she worked with private tutors. Her first formal ballet lessons were at a Catholic community center at the age of ten.

When she was fifteen Collins auditioned for the prestigious Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo led by the legendary Leonide Massine Collins was accepted but only on the condition that she stay in the corps de ballet and that she paint her face white to blend in with the other ...

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Joye Vailes Shepperd

artist, was born in Richmond, Virginia, to John and Ophelia Cortor. The following year the Cortors moved to Chicago, Illinois, as part of the Great Migration. In 1910 fewer than fifty thousand blacks lived in Chicago; by 1920 the number had tripled In search of a better education and environment for their son the Cortors first moved to the South Side home to a thriving African American community John Cortor operated a modest business installing electricity into homes and repairing small electrical appliances he eventually saved enough to open a grocery store and earned the luxury of indulging in his favorite pastimes A motorcycle enthusiast and a sportsman he also learned to pilot a small airplane He belonged to a group of pioneering African American pilots and prided himself on the fruits of his practical brand of hard work ingenuity and self determination Though John Cortor was not ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

a painter of African, Native American, and European ancestry who recorded the people, architecture, and daily life of African Americans in Boston's Roxbury and South End districts, was born in 1910 in North Plainfield, New Jersey, to Oscar William Crite and Annamae Palmer Crite. He was the only one of four children to survive infancy. While he was still a baby, his family moved to Boston so that his father could pursue a degree in engineering. Crite graduated from Boston Latin High School in 1920. Although offered a scholarship by the Yale University School of Art, Crite elected to remain in Boston to help his mother attend to his father, who had suffered a stroke. He attended the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts on scholarship, studying industrial design as well as drawing and painting before graduating in 1936 The school encouraged precision a ...

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Joshunda Sanders

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 ...

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Lisa D. Freiman

painter, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the eighth of ten children, to Delia Johnson, a domestic worker, and John Samuel Delaney, a Methodist minister. Beauford attended the segregated Knoxville Colored High School, from which he graduated with honors. As a teenager, he met a local artist, Lloyd Branson, who painted impressionist-style landscapes and portraits. For several years Beauford worked for Branson as a porter in exchange for art lessons and began creating representational landscapes and portraits of local Knoxville blacks. Recognizing the young artist's talent, Branson pushed him to pursue formal art studies in Boston and helped finance his education.

In September 1923 Delaney left Knoxville for Boston where he attended the Massachusetts Normal Art School now Massachusetts College of Art studying portraiture and academic traditions He took classes at the Copley Society the South Boston School of Art and the Lowell Institute and he ...

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Candace L. LeClaire

artist, was born to Mattie Bell, an unmarried, teenage sharecropper in Emelle, Alabama. Dial was the second of Bell's twelve children and was named simply “Buck” at birth. He did not have a formal surname and grew up uncertain of the identity of his biological father. Mattie Bell married a man named Dan Pratt shortly after the birth of her third son, and the couple went on to have nine more children. His mother's new and growing family proved to be a difficult adjustment for Buck, and he was sent to live with his great-grandmother, Had Dial, on the nearby farm of Bell's older cousin, Buddy Jake Dial. The Dials, who were of African and Native American descent, raised and cared for Thornton; they put him to work on the farm, and gave him the last name of Dial.

Dial s artistic sensibilities in part developed ...

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Amy Helene Kirschke

artist and educator, was born in Topeka, Kansas, the son of Aaron Douglas Sr., a baker from Tennessee, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown), an amateur artist from Alabama. Aaron had several brothers and sisters, but he was unique in his family in his singular drive to pursue higher education. He attended segregated elementary schools and then an integrated high school. Topeka had a strong and progressive black community, and Aaron was fortunate to grow up in a city where education and social uplift were stressed through organizations such as the Black Topeka Foundation. He was an avid reader and immersed himself in the great writers, including Dumas, Shakespeare, and Emerson His parents were able to feed and clothe him but could offer him no other help with higher education When he needed money to pursue a college degree he traveled via rail to Detroit where ...

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crystal am nelson

folk artist, was born Samuel Doyle on St. Helena Island, the Gullah Islands, South Carolina, one of nine children of Thomas Sr. and Sue Ladsen Doyle farmers on the Wallace plantation of mostly freed slaves Doyle attended the Penn School which was one of the country s first vocational and agricultural schools created by the Freedmen s Associations of Philadelphia to educate freed slaves on St Helena s Island He studied literature and carpentry through the ninth grade but was recognized for his drawing skills A teacher encouraged him to travel to New York where he could better nurture his talent with the growing opportunities available to African American artists however owing to financial constraints Doyle chose to remain on the island He dropped out of the Penn School following the ninth grade and found a job as a store clerk He later took on work as a ...