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Roanne Edwards

Afrocubanismo, an expression of Cuba's national identity in the arts, arose during the late 1920s and the 1930s. Afro-Cubanist representatives, such as the composer Amadeo Roldán and the poet Nicolás Guillén, sought to recognize and promote the value of popular black musical, artistic, and literary forms. They also depicted Cuban blacks as central to the Cuban nation and a symbol of exploited Cubans in general. White Creole novelist Alejo Carpentier thus merged Afro-Cuban traditions with European avant-garde literary techniques to decry the social and political marginalization of Afro-Cubans in his first novel, Ecué-Yamba-O (1933). Wifredo Lam, an artist of Afro-Chinese descent, employed cubist techniques in paintings inspired by Afro-Caribbean religions. In their creative work, these artists focused on Cuba's urban black music and culture, which also became a source of inspiration for many middle-class white composers, such as Ernesto Lecuona As a result Afro Cuban ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

graphic artist, painter, printmaker, and political activist, was born in Chicago in 1931. An only child, he attended Chicago public schools, moving briefly to Washington, D.C., to study at Howard University with Alain Leroy Locke, Sterling Allen Brown, and James Amos Porter. After one year he then enrolled at Alabama State College (later Alabama State University) to study under the sculptor, painter, and printmaker Hayward Louis Oubre, and he received a bachelor of arts degree. Bailey continued study at the University of Southern California (USC) as a student of Charles White and the Hungarian-born Francis de Erdely. He earned the bachelor of fine arts degree in 1958 and the master of fine arts degree in 1960. At USC he worked as a graduate assistant for two years, introducing the students Mel Edwards and Calvin Burnett to the work ...

Article

Aaron Myers

The phrase black aesthetic was used informally during the 1960s and adopted as a theoretical concept in 1971, with the publication of African American editor Addison Gayle's The Black Aesthetic, a collection of essays on the characteristics of the black aesthetic in literature and music. The black aesthetic encompasses a body of oral and written nonfiction and fiction that asserts the equality, uniqueness, and sometimes the superiority of African American modes of perception and expression; a set of political principles against inequality; and ethical and artistic criteria outlining what is valid and invalid writing by black Americans. One of the main expectations of a black aesthetic work is that it be politically engaged and socially uplifting.

According to critic Reginald Martin a black aesthetic has existed since the earliest writings by African Americans and its evolution can be divided into three chronological phases The first phase ...

Article

David Chioni Moore

The Black Atlantic, a rather new name for a very old thing, refers to two interrelated formations: first, a large place and its cross-linked cultures; and second, an equally cross-linked set of thinkers, thoughts, and texts. The place is that Atlantic zone where for a half-millennium Africans and their diasporae have lived, including much of sub-Saharan Africa, many regions in Latin America, the entire Caribbean, and good parts of North America and Western Europe. The thinkers, thoughts, and texts comprise the networked literary, cultural, and philosophical conversations inside this complex space. As a result of this complexity, this entry is divided into three parts: first, the Black Atlantic’s historical development and current reach; second, Paul Gilroy’s influential 1993 naming of it; and, third, the term’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential future.

Historical Development and Current Reach. For millennia the internally diverse circum Atlantic regions of Africa Western Europe the Caribbean ...

Article

Aaron Myers

The black mural movement developed out of the 1960s Black Arts Movement and embraced the political creed of the Black Aesthetic. The founding work of the Black Mural Movement, Wall of Respect (1967), by William Walker and other artists based in Chicago, Illinois, drew on a long-standing tradition of African American mural painting. In the 1930s the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration helped such African American artists as Aaron Douglas, Charles White, and Hale Woodruff complete murals that documented African American history. These monumental works, done in a style best described as social realism, were executed on the interior walls of public buildings.

Students and professors continued to create murals with black themes throughout the 1940s and 1950s. From the 1930s through the Black Mural Movement, African American muralists drew inspiration from the work of Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Susan B. Iwanisziw

commercial painter, artist, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only known child of Jeremiah Bowser from Maryland and Rachel Bustill, daughter of the prosperous black abolitionist and educator Cyrus Bustill. The intermarriage among the region's free black Quaker families headed by Cyrus Bustill, Robert Douglass Sr., Jeremiah Bowser, and David Mapps created a dynamic force that benefited all African Americans and particularly spurred David s personal growth and accomplishments Jeremiah a member of the Benezet Philosophical Society served as a steward on the Liverpool lines and later it seems he was the proprietor of an oyster house near the intersection of 4th and Cherry Streets where David Bowser first hung up his sign as a commercial painter Later the Bowser family moved to the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia into a house at 481 North 4th Street where Bowser remained for the ...

Article

Kennedy A. Walibora Waliaula

South African painter, writer, poet, and antiapartheid activist, was born in Bonnievale in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The third-born child in a family of five (four sons, and one daughter), Breytenbach was a twin, although his twin died at infancy. The Breytenbachs descended from the lineage of one Coenrad Breytenbach, a military officer of lower rank who arrived in South Africa from Europe in 1656 It is unclear whether Coenrad Breytenbach was Dutch or whether he had other European origins On the maternal side Breyten Breytenbach descended from the Cloetes of France However he would often downplay his European origins stressing instead his ties to Africa Two of his brothers were prominent figures in South Africa and had strong associations with the apartheid system Jan was a senior military officer while Cloete was a famous photojournalist Breytenbach s opposition to apartheid and Afrikanerdom made him something of a ...

Article

Kimberly Curtis

visual artist, educator, and activist, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, the second of the seven children of Dana C. Chandler Sr., a longshoreman, and Ruth Chandler. At age five Dana Chandler Jr. and his family moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts, a predominantly African American community. Chandler's parents, who had not attended school beyond the ninth and eleventh grades, raised their children to recognize the importance of completing high school and earning a college degree. Chandler grew up in a poor, working-class family and attended Boston's public schools throughout childhood and adolescence. He received primary and elementary education at the Asa Gray and Sherwin schools. After a six-month hospital stay to treat rheumatic fever, he transferred from Boston Latin School to J.P. Timility Junior High School. At Boston Technical High School his art teachers Ralph Rosenthal and Gunnar Munnick inspired him to become an artist. In 1959 Chandler graduated ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

plasterer and civil rights activist, was born in Meridian, Mississippi, to Ben Chaney, at that time a worker in an ice cream factory, and Fannie Lee (Roberth) Chaney a cook and domestic Like many of their black neighbors in Meridian the Chaneys struggled to provide for their five children of whom James or J E as he was known was the second born and the eldest son When J E was seven Ben Chaney found steady work as a plasterer one of the better paying trades open to African Americans in Mississippi His work required frequent travel however leaving J E as the eldest male in the house a role he took seriously ensuring that his younger siblings performed their chores J E was protective of his mother who took in laundry and worked in a white school to supplement her husband s wages but had an uneasy relationship ...

Article

Lorin Nails-Smoote

political and editorial cartoonist, was born Chesterfield Commodore in Racine, Wisconsin, the fourth of five children of Elizabeth “Bessie” Fite and Pascal “Pat” Commodore, a Creole laborer and model maker from Louisiana. One Commodore ancestor, Peter D. Thomas of Racine, a former slave, was the first elected black official in Wisconsin.

The family resided with Bessie Commodore's mother, Della, in her Racine boarding house until 1923 when the three girls and their parents moved to Chicago where Pat could pursue better employment opportunities. Chester, as he was known, remained with his grandmother and his older brother until 1927 when he joined his parents.

Commodore grew up in a culturally stimulating environment Because of its convenient proximity to Chicago and Milwaukee and because black entertainers in pre integration years were not allowed above the first floor of the Chicago and Milwaukee hotels where they appeared Della Fite s ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

sculptor. Born into a middle-class family in Philadelphia, Meta Vaux Warrick received a strong liberal arts education that included private lessons in dance, music, art, and horseback riding. She was recognized early as an artist when one of her sculptures was accepted for exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Warrick received formal art training at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts), from which she graduated with a diploma and teaching certificate in 1898.

Like many other artists of the era she left for Paris as soon as possible after her graduation to continue her training and to work in a more open and racially free environment While in Paris she studied at the Académie Colarossi to refine her sculpture techniques and at the École des Beaux Arts to improve her drawing Even in Paris with ...

Article

Blake Wintory

photographer, politician, sheriff, assayer, barber, and lawyer, was born a slave in Carroll County, Kentucky. William Hines Furbush became a member of the Arkansas General Assembly as well as the first sheriff of Lee County, Arkansas. His Arkansas political career began in the Republican Party at the close of Reconstruction and ended in the Democratic Party just as political disfranchisement began.

Little is known about Furbush's early life, though his literacy suggests a formal childhood education. Around 1860 he operated a photography studio in Delaware, Ohio. In March 1862 he traveled to Union-controlled Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas, on Kate Adams and continued to work as a photographer. In Franklin County, Ohio, that December he married Susan Dickey. A few years later, in February 1865 he joined the Forty second Colored Infantry at Columbus Ohio He received an honorable discharge at the ...

Article

Alejandro Gortázar

was born in Montevideo on 22 June 1926. He is recognized both in Uruguay and the rest of the world mainly for his paintings. He lived in Uruguay between 1926 and 1970, and later on between 1990 and 2002. In the twenty years out of his country, he lived in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela. Much of his work remained in those countries. In 1993 stated that he had sold more than three thousand paintings all over the world Galloza s childhood was marked by the experience of living in Montevideo and then in the countryside because of his mother s constant change of jobs He was clarito light skinned mulatto in his own words because his father was a white man even though he never knew him When he was fourteen years old he and his mother returned to the capital city Soon after he ...

Article

Jim Mendelsohn

As slaves of the Dutch West India Company, Africans built the first wagon road into Harlem in the seventeenth century, and for the next two centuries, African slaves worked the Dutch, and then English, farms in Harlem. In 1790, during an early census, 115 slaves were listed for the Harlem Division, which accounted for about one-third the population of the area.

But the evolution of Harlem into the political and cultural capital of black America is a twentieth-century phenomenon. Once a wealthy suburb of New York City, Harlem real estate soared in value at the turn of the century, only to collapse beneath excessive speculation in 1904 and 1905. Those years coincided with the completion of the Lenox Avenue subway line to lower Manhattan. Philip Payton s Afro American Realty Company leased large numbers of Harlem apartment houses from white owners and rented them to ...

Article

Mary Anne Boelcskevy

painter and civil rights activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. “Teddy,” as he was called, was one of six children of Edwin Gailliard Harleston and Louise Moultre. Harleston's father, born in 1852, was one of eight children of the white plantation owner William Harleston and his slave Kate. Edwin Gailliard Harleston had worked as a rice planter but returned to Charleston and his family's Laurel Street home in search of a better living for his-wife and children. There he ran a produce-transporting business for a few years and then brought his nickname “Captain” along when he left boating in 1896 to set up the Harleston Brothers Funeral Home with his brother Robert Harleston a former tailor The segregated funeral business meant they would have no competition from whites Most of Captain s sons were uninterested in joining the business after their uncle Robert left however ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

musician, activist, author, painter, and sculptor, was born Richard Pierce Havens in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of nine children. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. His father, Richard Havens, worked as a metal plater and dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, eventually learning to play a number of instruments. Richie's mother Mildred a bookbinder and casual singer at home encouraged her young son when he started singing background vocals at the age of twelve for local groups All kinds of music were played in the Havens home Richie s grandmother listened to Yiddish gospel and big band music his mother enjoyed country music and his father loved jazz He joined the doo wop singing group the Five Chances at age fifteen and performed the next year with the Brooklyn McCrea Gospel Singers a group that sang hymns for neighborhood churches Havens ...

Article

Michelle K. Massie

teacher and legislator, was born Kirkland Leroy Irvis in Saugerties, New York, the older of Francis H. and Harriet Ten Broeck Cantine Irvis's two children. Francis was self-employed, and Harriet was a homemaker. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Albany, New York. While Irvis's father instilled in his children the value of education, his mother taught them the importance of art and human emotion. Her lessons would inspire Irvis to become a renowned wood sculptor and published poet. He graduated from Albany High School with honors in 1934 and went on to attend New York State College for Teachers (later SUNY), where he graduated summa cum laude in 1938 with an AB in History.

The harsh realities of racism that his parents tried to shield from him as a child would meet him head on as an adult Denied teaching positions upon graduation Irvis went back to ...

Article

Jennifer Drake

poet, visual artist, performer, and bohemian citizen of the world, was born Theodore Jones in Cairo, Illinois, to parents who worked on Mississippi riverboats. While little is known about Joans's childhood, two stories circulate widely. The first is that he was born on a riverboat; the second is that his father, a riverboat entertainer, gave the twelve-year-old Joans a trumpet and dropped him off in Memphis, Tennessee, to make his own way in the world. It has been documented that Joans's father was murdered in the 1943 Detroit race riots, and various autobiographical writings indicate that Joans spent some of his childhood in Indiana and Kentucky.

After earning his BFA in painting from Indiana University in 1951, Joans moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a central figure in the Beat scene. He associated with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg who would first ...

Article

Todd Palmer

artist, was born Norman Wilfred Lewis in Harlem, New York, the second of three boys born to Wilfred Lewis and Diana Lewis (maiden name unknown). From his earliest school days, Lewis observed how people formed group identities––and noticed the ways he didn't belong. He recalled that Harlem during his boyhood was an Italian and Jewish place where “the only Negroes … were [building] superintendents.” Later, as white ethnic residents moved away and more African Americans arrived, he recognized differences within Harlem's “new Negro” community. Lewis was keen to the ways his family's immigrant outlook was distinct from blacks with U.S. roots: his parents came to Harlem from Bermuda, where his father had been a fisherman and his mother ran her own bakery.

At nine years old Lewis discovered a desire to paint But his father warned that his racial identity would be an intractable obstacle and admonished Lewis for ...