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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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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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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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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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Sharon Pruitt

artist, art historian, curator, critic, and educator, was born Lynda Faye Peek in Atlanta, Georgia. Amaki, who legally changed her name in 1978, is the fourth of six surviving daughters of Mary Lee Hill, a homemaker, gardener, and quilter, and Norman Vance Peek, a landscape designer and gardener during the summer, and a cake and candy caterer during the winter. Early in her life and throughout her artistic career Amaki was influenced by her parents' penchant for recycling materials into creative forms.

Amaki's parents supported and encouraged her early artistic pursuits. Her mother enthusiastically showed Amaki's drawings to family friends and members of the community. Aware of Amaki's interest, the Reverend William Holmes Borders, a friend of the family and pastor of the Wheat Street Baptist Church where the Peek family worshipped, introduced ten-year-old Amaki to Hale Aspacio Woodruff a ...

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Theresa Leininger-Miller

writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on an Indian reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Gwendolyn's father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. When her parents divorced, her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with Gwendolyn's stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York.

At Brooklyn's Girls' High (1918–1921) Bennett participated in the drama and literary societies—the first African American to do so—and won first place in an art contest. She attended fine arts classes at Columbia University (1921) and the Pratt Institute, from which she graduated in 1924 While she was still an undergraduate her poems Nocturne and Heritage were published in ...

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Sandra Y. Govan

Although she never collected her published poetry into a volume nor produced a collection of short stories, Gwendolyn Bennett was recognized as a versatile artist and significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Torn between her ambition to work as a graphic artist and her desire to become a proficient writer using the medium of either poetry or prose, Bennett maintained the profile of an arts activist in New York City's African American arts community for over twenty years. However, the five-year period spanning 1923 to 1928 proved to be the most productive for her as a creative writer. It was within this brief span that James Weldon Johnson recognized Bennett as a lyric poet of some power.

Born in Giddings, Texas, Bennett led a nomadic childhood before her father, Joshua Robbin Bennett finally settled his family into comfortable surroundings in Brooklyn New York Bennett completed her secondary education at ...

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Theresa Leininger-Miller

Bennett, Gwendolyn (08 July 1902–30 May 1981), writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on a Native American reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Bennett’s father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. Her parents divorced and her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with her stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York.

At Brooklyn s Girls High 1918 1921 Bennett participated in the drama and literary societies the first African American to do so and won first place in an art contest She next attended fine arts classes at Columbia University 1921 and the Pratt Institute from which she graduated in 1924 While she was still an ...

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Maud C. Mundava

poet, artist, illustrator, teacher, and journalist. (Some of her works appear under Gwendolyn Bennett Jackson and Gwendolyn Bennett Crosscup.) Bennett was the daughter of Joshua R. Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on a Nevada Native American reservation. She was born in Giddings, Texas, and later lived in Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York. When Bennett's parents divorced, she moved to New York with her stepmother and father. She was married to Alfred Jackson, a physician (1928) and then to Richard Crosscup, a teacher (1941). She had no children.

As an African American poet, artist, illustrator, teacher, and journalist, Bennett contributed significantly to the Harlem Renaissance (an African American artistic movement) and to U.S. history and culture. She attended fine arts classes at Columbia University (1921), at Pratt Institute (1924 and in France ...

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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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Rebecca Martin Nagy

artist and educator, was born in Addis Ababa to an Ethiopian mother and an Armenian father who was a colonel in the Imperial Body Guard of Haile Selassie. Boghossian received early art training at Tafari Makonnen Secondary School and in private lessons with Stanislas Chojnacki, a historian of Ethiopian art and water-colorist, then librarian at the University College of Addis Ababa (later Haile Selassie I University and now Addis Ababa University), and with Jacques Godbout, a Canadian writer, filmmaker, and painter who taught French at the University College.

In 1955 Boghossian won second prize at an art exhibition held as part of Haile Selassie s Jubilee Anniversary Celebration and was awarded an imperial scholarship to study in London After attending classes at St Martin s School the Central School and the Slade School of Fine Art in London the young artist decided to transfer his studies to Paris where ...

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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

Richard A. Long

Margaret Burroughs was born in St. Rose, Louisiana, near New Orleans, but was brought at the age of five by her parents, Alexander and Octavia Pierre Taylor, to Chicago where she grew up, was educated, and where her distinctive career has unfolded. She attended the public schools of Chicago, including the Chicago Teacher's College. In 1946, she received a BA in education and in 1948, an MA in education from the Art Institute of Chicago. From 1940 to 1968 she was a teacher in the Chicago public schools and subsequently a professor of humanities at Kennedy-King College in Chicago (1969–1979).

Burroughs has a national reputation as a visual artist and as an arts organizer. Her long exhibition record as a painter and printmaker began in 1949 and included exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad A retrospective of her work was held in Chicago ...

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LaNesha NeGale DeBardelaben

artist, educator, and museum founder, was born Margaret Victoria Taylor in St. Rose, Louisiana, the youngest of three daughters of Christopher Alexander Taylor, a farmer, and Octavia Pierre Taylor, a domestic worker and schoolteacher. As a small child Margaret Taylor learned that her great-grandmother had been enslaved. Taylor and her two sisters were enamored by the stories told to them about their Creole, white, and African heritage by their French-speaking Creole grandmother. When the five-year-old Taylor moved to Chicago with her family and many other North-migrating African Americans, she took with her an appreciation for the enriched oral tradition common to her beloved St. Rose community.

In Chicago the young Taylor adjusted to life in a northern city While in the South Taylor s mother had taught in a one room schoolhouse with little or no classroom supplies in Chicago Taylor attended a school that had many classrooms ...

Article

Genevieve Slomski

pioneer of abstract painting, was born Edward Clark in the Storyville section of New Orleans, Louisiana. Little is known about his family, but they moved north during the Depression, and he was raised in Chicago.

Following service in the U.S. Air Force, Clark attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under the G.I. Bill from 1947 to 1951. At the Art Institute, he met abstract painter Joan Mitchell, with whom he developed a lifelong friendship, and the impressionist painter Louis Ritman, who was an encouraging instructor. During this period, Clark's work was traditional and figurative. But Clark's frustration with the Institute's academic restraints, such as the directive to avoid oils during this period, led-him to create an experimental self-portrait that took two years to complete. The classic head-and-shoulders depiction was set against a Renaissance landscape consisting of subtle layers of stippled watercolors.

In 1952 Clark ...

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Frank Martin

portraitist and American scene painter, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of a Methodist minister, John Samuel Delaney, and his wife, the former Delia Johnson, who supplemented the family income as an itinerant domestic. Joseph was the ninth of ten children in a family that produced another visual artist of rare ability, his older brother, the noted abstractionist Beauford Delaney, who was three years Joseph's senior. The Delaneys’ early interest in art developed at least in part as a result of drawing on Sunday school cards during their father's regular church services. In an essay written for a catalog of his brother's works in 1978, Joseph Delaney wrote:

Those early years which Beauford and I enjoyed together I am sure shaped the direction of our lives as artists We were constantly doing something with our hands modeling with the very red Tennessee clay also copying ...

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Kimberly L. Malinowski

landscape and figure painter, was born in Wood County, near Parkersburg, West Virginia, to Charles T. Dodd and Senora Tibbs Dodd. Dodd attended local schools and began studying art by correspondence. In 1925 he attended the West Virginia Colored Institute (later West Virginia State College) in Institute, West Virginia. He graduated second in his class and was student body president. In 1929 he received a scholarship to study at the National Academy of Design in New York.

In 1932 Dodd returned to West Virginia and worked as an art professor at Bluefield State College in Bluefield West Virginia Dodd was a practicing artist during the years that he taught He taught numerous classes showcasing his many talents He taught introduction to art classes for public school teachers not aspiring to be practicing artists but who wished to have some art background The range of Dodd s teaching ...

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Kimberly M. Curtis

visual artist, art historian, and art critic, was the youngest child born to Frank Donaldson and Clementine Richardson Donaldson of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. When Jeff Donaldson was four years old his father died. To support the family Clementine Donaldson worked as a grammar school principal and high school principal. Donaldson received his early education in Pine Bluff, where he studied art with John Miller Howard, a professor at Arkansas AM&N College (later the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). After earning a BA in Studio Art from Arkansas AM&N in 1954, he returned to Chicago, where he had moved as a teenager with his family, and took courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Donaldson went on to study photography, color and design, and printmaking at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he earned an MS in Art Education and Administration in 1963 ...

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Jeannine DeLombard

Douglas, Aaron (26 May 1899–02 February 1979), artist and educator, was born in Topeka, Kansas, the son of Aaron Douglas, Sr., a baker, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown), a domestic. Educated in segregated schools until high school, Douglas’s early artistic influences included his mother’s paintings and drawings and fellow African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Christ and Nikodemus (1899), which young Douglas saw reproduced in a magazine.

Torn between becoming a lawyer and an artist after graduating from Topeka High School Douglas like thousands of other black laborers headed to the urban centers of the North in search of a factory job Unlike most of them however Douglas was intent on saving enough money to attend college in the fall Arriving in Detroit Michigan he worked as a plasterer but finding this work too much for his slight frame he worked for Cadillac loosening molding sand from ...

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A. B. Christa Schwarz

artist. Known as the “father of Black American art,” Aaron Douglas significantly influenced the field of black visual arts and dominated the visual sphere of the Harlem Renaissance, the first African American cultural movement. Douglas was born in Topeka, Kansas, one of several children of the baker Aaron Douglas Sr. from Tennessee and his wife, Elizabeth, a homemaker from Alabama. Douglas developed an interest in art at an early age, graduated from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1922, and took a teaching position at Lincoln High School in Kansas City in 1923, staying until 1925. Desiring to further develop his own craft and inspired by the 1925 Harlem issue of the sociology journal Survey Graphic, Douglas moved to Harlem in 1925.

Interpreting the Harlem Renaissance as an opportunity to replace old stereotypical images of African Americans ...