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Kevin D. Roberts

author of an autobiographical slave narrative, was born near Winchester, Virginia, to slave parents whose names are now unknown. Adams and his family were owned by George F. Calomese, a member of a prominent planter family. John Quincy Adams and his twin brother were one of four pairs of twins born to their mother, who had twenty-five children.

What we know of Adams's life comes from his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of John Quincy Adams (1872), which briefly traces Adams's life as a slave and as a freeman. Written in simple, plain language, the Narrative captures the tragedy of slavery in powerful ways. The most poignant events in Adams's early life involve the sale of family members and friends. In 1857 the sale of his twin brother Aaron and his sister Sallie left Adams very sad and heart broken Adams 28 Though crushed by the ...

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Teri B. Weil

military leader, nurse, educator, and entrepreneur, was born Clara Mae Leach Adams in Willow Springs, North Carolina. Her parents, Otha Leach and Caretha Bell, were sharecroppers, and she was the fourth of ten children. Her parents were staunch supporters of education and made sure that all of their children knew this. Her parents further instilled in the children a sense of self-respect and a belief that with knowledge they could do anything.

As a child growing up in a family of sharecroppers, Adams-Ender realized early that she wanted more out of life. Her perseverance in continuing her education while missing school to work the farm with her family was evident when she graduated second in her class at the age of sixteen. Although she enrolled in a nursing program, her first career choice was to be a lawyer. However, in 1956 her father believed that ...

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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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Leora Maltz Leca

painter and printmaker, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to a family with a long line of educated and powerful women. Her grandmother, Emma, was a college-educated university professor in the 1890s, and her mother, India, was a similarly educated partner in the family drugstore with her father, Miles. Her paternal lineage included a grandfather who was the first black pharmacist in the state of Georgia. The family's social circle included such figures as Booker T. Washington and Zora Neale Hurston. Along with her older brother, Larry, Amos attended schools in Atlanta's then-segregated public school system—first E. R. Carter Elementary and then Booker T. Washington High School.

Amos remembered wishing to be an artist from an early age and eventually she enrolled in Ohio s Antioch College with a firm interest in the visual arts She earned a BA from Antioch in Fine Arts as well as an etching ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

writer, was born in Plainview, Georgia, in Morgan County, the fourth of ten children of George Cleveland Andrews, a sharecropper and self‐taught folk artist, and Viola (Perryman) Andrews, also a sharecropper and, later, a newspaper columnist and the author of published short stories and an unpublished autobiography. Raymond's older brother, Benny Andrews, would become an internationally known painter and printmaker. Raymond Andrews's paternal grandmother, Jessie Rose Lee Wildcat Tennessee, was the daughter of an African American mother and a Native American father. Although she married Eddie Andrews, an African American who died in 1917, Raymond Andrews's paternal grandfather was James Orr, a plantation owner's son.

In 1935 Andrews and his family moved to a small house near his grandmother's home on land owned by Orr. Then in 1943 the Andrews family moved to the nearby Barnett Farm to work as sharecroppers ...

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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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Betty Kaplan Gubert

Edward Mitchell Bannister was the first of two sons born to Edward and Hannah Alexander Bannister. His father was from Barbados; his mother, who was probably of Scottish descent, was a native of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, and fostered her older son's love of drawing. His father died when Bannister was six; his mother died in 1844. The two boys were sent to live with a wealthy white lawyer, Harris Hatch, and his family. They worked on the Hatches' farm but had access to the Hatches' library, which was filled with books and with paintings that Bannister copied incessantly.

Following the path of many young men who lived in coastal communities, Bannister went to sea, working on fishing boats and schooners. He settled in Boston in 1848 laboring at menial jobs before he learned the skilled trades of barbering and women s hair styling He ...

Article

Pamela M. Fletcher

painter, was born in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, the son of Hannah Alexander, a native of New Brunswick, and Edward Bannister, from Barbados. While his birth date has generally been given as 1828, recent research has suggested that he was born several years earlier. After the death of his father in 1832, Edward was raised by his mother, whom he later credited with encouraging his artistic aspirations: “The love of art in some form came to me from my mother. … She it was who encouraged and fostered my childhood propensities for drawing and coloring” (Holland, Edward Mitchell Bannister, 17). His mother died in 1844 and Edward and his younger brother William were sent to work for a wealthy local family where he was exposed to classical literature music and painting Edward s interest in art continued and an early biography of the ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Oberlin, Ohio, one of five children (two boys and three girls) of James and Margaret Barnes. James, from North Carolina, was a chef at Oberlin College, and Margaret, from Kentucky, ran a family laundry. Soon after they married, Barnes's parents settled in Oberlin to raise their family because of the community's liberal atmosphere. They were aware of the role the town had played as a way station on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves in the nineteenth century. Barnes received the bulk of his education in Oberlin. He graduated from high school there in 1932 and was elected to the National Honor Society. In 1936 he graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor s degree in Physical Education He was an outstanding athlete who played end on the college s football team and starred on the track team He established a ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born to a Haitian father and a first-generation Puerto Rican-American mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a child he created drawings inspired by Comic Books and television cartoons. His mother, who often took him to local museums, nurtured his early interest in art.

In May 1968 Basquiat was hit by a car. He suffered a broken arm and his spleen had to be removed. While he was hospitalized, his mother gave him a copy of Gray's Anatomy, a book that inspired many of his later works as well as the name of the Gray, the noise band he co-founded in 1979. After his parents separated in 1968, Basquiat and his two sisters lived with their father. At the age of seventeen, Basquiat dropped out of high school and lived, by choice, in the streets and with various friends.

Basquiat s career as an ...

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N. Elizabeth Schlatter

painter, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Gerard Basquiat, an accountant originally from Haiti, and Matilde Andradas, of Puerto Rican descent. A precocious draftsman from childhood, Basquiat received little formal artistic training. The last school he attended was the experimental City-as-School program in Manhattan, where he befriended his fellow artist Al Diaz.

Before quitting school altogether in 1978, Basquiat created SAMO (meaning “same old shit”), which was variously a pseudo-religion, a fictional logo, a nom de plume, and a persona. Basquiat and Diaz spray-painted original aphorisms with a copyright symbol next to the word SAMO on walls and in alleys in lower Manhattan. Their mock epigrams and mottoes included “SAMO as an end to mindwash religion, nowhere politics, and bogus philosophy,” “SAMO saves idiots,” and “plush safe he think, SAMO.” Whereas other graffiti artists such as Fab 5 Freddy, Futura 2000 and ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

painter. Basquiat was born to a Puerto Rican mother, Matilde Basquiat, and a Haitian father, Gérard Jean-Baptiste Basquiat, who was a former Haitian minister of the interior. Basquiat's mother encouraged his interest in all forms of the visual arts. He attended a Catholic high school but dropped out a year before his graduation and moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan. There he lived with various friends and supported himself by selling small, postcard-size art and T-shirts.

When Basquiat was only seventeen he started partnering with his friend Al Diaz in lower Manhattan to graffiti dilapidated buildings and subway trains with images and poems, signing the artwork “SAMO,” which represented “same ole shit.” The graffiti often included cryptic sayings, such as “plush safe he think; SAMO,” “SAMO is an escape clause,” and “SAMO does not cause cancer in laboratory animals.” Within a year this graffiti garnered considerable interest. The Village ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Paul Von Blum

artist and businesswoman, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to George A. Beasley and Annette P. Beasley, both of whom worked at a local country club. Like many artists, she revealed considerable talent in childhood, excelling in school art classes and enjoying parental support for her creativity. She graduated from John Adams High School in Cleveland in 1961, and began her formal training at Ohio University, where she earned a BFA in Visual Arts in 1965. After graduation, she started teaching art at Cleveland's Glenville High School; she held this position from 1965 to 1969. During that time, she had a brief marriage in 1968 to Louis Evans, about whom little is known. They divorced in 1969.

In 1969 she moved to Los Angeles After a year as a layout artist for Sage Publications a leading publisher of social science books and journals ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

artist, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James F. Bell and Susanna County, probably laborers. Little is known about Bell's early life. She presumably attended segregated schools. It is unlikely that she ever received artistic training; she declared that she drew “without human teaching.” She probably worked as a domestic servant, laundress, or seamstress, beginning in her teenage years, and she may have traveled extensively. Bell said she “lived all around” before World War I. Since she does not appear in early-twentieth-century city directories or census records in Washington, D.C., or Boston, Massachusetts, and because she apparently never married or had children, it is likely that she resided with her various employers.

By the mid-1920s Bell was working for Edward Peter Pierce, justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1914 to 1937, and Adele Dutaud Pierce his wife as a live ...

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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 ...

Article

Born in Gastonia, North Carolina, John Biggers was one of seven children. His father, Paul Biggers, was a school principal, preacher, and basket maker. Biggers studied at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, where he resolved to become an artist. Biggers served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946, and in 1944 painted a mural for the U.S. Naval Training School at Hampton. He subsequently attended Pennsylvania State University, where he earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. Biggers founded and chaired the art department at Texas Southern University, where he implemented progressive art programs that involved local communities.

Biggers is known for his murals a form he began to master while at Hampton Many of his early works no longer exist because they were painted directly on buildings that were later destroyed or altered His works demonstrate his interest in the concrete spiritual ...