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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

What’s new in Harlem: the air expectant; arrival and departure; the train depot; the brownstones; the shoeshine boys, and the numbers runners; all the players assembled on these storied streets. The drumbeat struck in Harlem echoes in all the cities transformed by the Black Belt’s Great Migration. In the salons, rent parties, jazz clubs, and meetings of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) the New Negro Renaissance took its most definitive and impactful shape.

The violent end of Reconstruction the rise of Jim Crow segregation and the shift away from an agricultural economy galvanized black migration on a national and international scale As the global south moved north black Manhattan transformed from a small enclave of colored men and women to a more expansive micro nation of blackness as immigrants from Jamaica Barbados and Trinidad joined those from Mississippi Georgia and North Carolina The regional and ...

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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

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 ...

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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 ...

Article

Charles Pete Banner-Haley

cartoonist, was born Aaron Vincent McGruder in Chicago, the son of Bill McGruder, an employee with the National Safety Transportation Board, and Elaine (maiden name not known), a homemaker. When McGruder was six years old the family moved to the planned community of Columbia, Maryland. Created by the Rouse Company in the late 1960s, Columbia was envisioned as an integrationist, post–civil rights utopia.The young McGruder attended a Jesuit school outside of Columbia from seventh to ninth grade. It was, as he said in a New Yorker profile, “a very strict, very, very white Jesuit school.” As oppressive as the atmosphere was, it was while at this school that McGruder discovered the humor of Monty Python. When he transferred to public school in the tenth grade, he found himself mostly in the company of other black students. He became a fan of Star Wars kung fu ...

Article

Diana Wylie

South African artist and activist, was born Thamsanqa Harry Mnyele on 10 December 1948, in a house owned by his maternal grandparents on Sixth Avenue, Alexandra Township, Johannesburg. He was the second child of David Freddy Harry “Khotso” Mnyele and Sarah Mamanyena, née Thamane. His father was then working as a clerk but, after studying at Wilberforce Institute, Evaton, became a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the early 1950s. His parents divorced in 1952. His mother, working as a domestic servant in the white suburbs of Johannesburg, sent her children in 1956 to live with relatives in Makapanstad, a village northwest of Pretoria. There, Mnyele attended Thipe and Mmamudu schools and Nchaupe II Memorial College. He left Nchaupe before taking his matriculation exam. In 1973 he studied art for nine months at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre at Rorke s ...

Article

C. M. Winston

artist, curator, art historian, filmmaker, writer, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Howard Pindell and Mildred, both educators. By the age of eight Pindell already aspired to be an artist, and she attended Saturday drawing classes at the Fleischer Art Memorial.

Pindell graduated cum laude with a BFA from Boston University and earned an MFA from Yale University's School of Art and Architecture in 1967. She moved to New York City in 1967 after graduating from Yale and she worked primarily as a painter of nonobjective and figurative works during the early years of her career That year she landed a job at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA as an exhibition assistant in the department of national and international circulating exhibitions At MoMA she rose through the ranks from curatorial assistant to associate curator in ...

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Sylvie Kandé

multimedia artist, philosopher, and educator, was born in Harlem, New York, the only child of Daniel Robert, a lawyer, and Olive Xavier Smith Piper, an administrator. Belonging to a light-skinned African American family, she was confronted early on by challenges that ultimately gave her work some of its unique characteristics, namely the firm assertion of her black identity, her unremitting fleshing out of racial stereotypes, and her commitment to cross-cultural bridge-building. Her involvement with the arts began in childhood: a piano prodigy and ballet dancer, she also took classes at the Museum of Modern Art in 1957. Her political consciousness was first shaped in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which she joined in 1962, and by the events surrounding the March on Washington in 1963, commemorated in her 1983 poster Think about It She graduated from New Lincoln School in ...

Article

Originally named David Samba wa Mbimba-N’zinga-Nuni Masi, Chéri Samba was born in the village of Kinto-Mvuila in the southern Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). Samba moved to the country’s capital, Kinshasa, in 1972. He trained as a commercial sign painter and cartoonist, and opened his own studio in Kasa Vabu (a district in the city) in 1975 His distinctive style builds on the techniques of African urban signage bright colors bold graphic drawing and a fusion of image and text Samba mimics the sign painting style and combines it with ironic written text sometimes in the tone of advertising copy In this manner the artist uses parody to transform the seemingly ordinary painted sign into a medium for sociopolitical critique inspired by local news and global travel The text in his paintings is often written in English French Kikongo and Lingala appealing to ...

Article

Aaron Myers

In 1967, at the beginning of the Black Power Movement, painter William Walker assembled a group of some twenty African American artists to execute a mural celebrating prominent figures in black history. Most of these artists were members of a Chicago-based organization called the Visual Arts Workshop of OBAC (Organization of Black American Culture). Together, these artists planned the mural's design and raised the money needed to finance the project. They decided to paint the mural on the side of a two-story, boarded-up tenement building at the intersection of 43rd Street and Langley Avenue. Once a thriving part of the city, this predominantly black area of Chicago had deteriorated into a slum. The mural itself is a patchwork of famous black Americans, including Muhammad Ali, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, and Charlie Parker.

The artists' objective in painting the Wall of Respect was to lift the ...

Article

J. Deborah Johnson Sterrett

painter and sculptor, was born in Gloster, Mississippi, the fourth of six children to Reverend James W. Washington, a cabinetmaker and an associate minister at the Gloster Baptist Church, and Lizzie, a homemaker. The birth year for Washington has been reported between 1909 and 1911 Washington made a futile effort to obtain a birth certificate and is reported to have rejected the notion of chronological age In the rural segregated town of Gloster Washington endured poverty unequal education and racially fueled terrorism that propelled him into a lifetime fight for social justice As a boy of six he saw his father under threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced to flee town in the trunk of a white friend s car Wasington never saw him again Without his father Washington forged a greater bond with his mother whom he credits for nurturing his natural talents in the ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

artist and teacher, was born in Cairo, Illinois, the only child of Augusta (Bell) Woodruff, a domestic worker, and George Woodruff, who died when his son was quite young. After his father's death, Woodruff and his mother moved to east Nashville, Tennessee. Art instruction was not available in his segregated public school, so Woodruff drew on his own, mostly copying from books, and later as a cartoonist for his high school newspaper.

After graduating from high school in 1918, Woodruff moved to Indianapolis, Illinois, where he held several menial jobs while living at the YMCA. From 1920 to 1922 he studied landscape painting with William Forsyth at the Herron School of Art, while drawing weekly cartoons for the local African American newspaper, The Indianapolis Ledger After a short stint in Chicago where he studied briefly at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago he returned ...