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Pamela Lee Gray

wood carver, sculptor, and folk artist, was born Jesse James Aaron in Lake City, Florida, to descendants of slaves and Seminole Indians. Aaron attended school for less than one year before he was sent to work as a contract laborer for local farms. Trained as a baker when he was twenty-one years old, he found he enjoyed the creativity it required. He opened several bakeries, worked as a cook at Gainesville's Hotel Thomas from 1933 to 1937, and then cooked for a variety of fraternities and hospitals in Florida. Aaron also worked as a cook aboard the Seaboard Air Line Railroad during this time.

Aaron married Leeanna Jenkins, and when the family settled in northwest Gainesville in the 1930s they opened a nursery. From this point until 1968 when Aaron became a folk artist at the age of eighty one it is difficult to determine what is ...

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Sarah Wolozin

artist, was born in Madison, Georgia, the second of ten children of Viola Perryman and George Andrews, sharecroppers. Benny Andrews grew up in a household where creativity was encouraged. With what little money they had, his parents bought pens and paper for their children and encouraged them to draw and tell stories. Although not formally trained as an artist, George Andrews painted throughout his life and received considerable recognition in his later years. As a teenager Benny Andrews attended Burney Street High School only sporadically, when weather conditions excused him from his work picking cotton in the fields. In 1948 he became the first member of his family to graduate from high school.

In 1948Andrews moved to Atlanta and was awarded a 4 H club scholarship to attend one of Georgia s three black colleges He entered Fort Valley State College in Fort Valley Georgia but dropped ...

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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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Amy Helene Kirschke

artist. Originally from Gastonia, North Carolina, Biggers grew up in the segregated South, the youngest of seven children. His childhood was marred by tragedy, with the deaths of his sister and his father, both from diabetes. John attempted to help his mother in any way he could, often helping with the laundry she took in to support the family. These images eventually appeared in his work.

With the sole responsibility of raising her large family Biggers s mother decided to send the two youngest boys to Lincoln Academy This was an important development in John s interest in African culture The principal of the school had served as a missionary in West Africa and was determined to instill a respect and an understanding of African culture in his students Biggers had the unusual experience of learning in detail about African culture an interest that grew as he developed as ...

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Todd Palmer

architect, planner and developer, was born in Towson, Maryland, and grew up in Baltimore, the third child of Albert Truman and Charlotte Cassell. His father drove a coal truck and played trumpet for the Salvation Army Band; his mother brought in extra income doing washing. As a 14-year-old, Cassell expressed an ambition to build at Douglass High, a segregated public vocational school. While studying carpentry he enrolled in a drafting course with Ralph Victor Cook. Cook became a mentor to Cassell and encouraged him to pursue a college education in architecture at Cornell University, where Cook had been an early African American graduate of engineering.

Cassell entered Cornell in 1915, but two years into the program, World War I interrupted his studies. Cassell enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 1919 he returned to the United States from France with an honorable discharge Because Cornell ...

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Glenda R. Carpio

painter, was born Robert Hutton Colescott in Oakland, California, to parents whose names are not now known but who were both trained musicians, one as a pianist, and the other, as a classically trained violist and sometime band mate of Louis Armstrong. His parents had moved from New Orleans to Oakland in 1919. As a child Robert was initially drawn to music, playing the drums and performing in local bands, but quite quickly he realized that his real gift was for drawing and painting.

Before receiving his formal education Colescott met the sculptor Sargent Claude Johnson through his father who, in order to supplement his income as a musician, worked as a porter on the Southern Pacific railroad, where Johnson was one of his co workers The sculptor became a family friend and a role model for Robert After serving for nearly four years in the army ...

Article

Donna M. Wells

photographer, journalist, and diplomat, was born on the campus of Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University), in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Oglethorpe Laboratory Elementary School, a practice school on the campus. Davis's professional career began in high school and continued until his retirement in 1985. He was first introduced to photography by William (Bill) Brown, an instructor at the Atlanta University Laboratory High School where Davis was a student. Throughout high school and later as a student at Morehouse, Davis supported himself through photography assignments from local newspapers and public relations firms.

Davis's college education was suspended in 1944 when he joined the armed forces during World War II and fought with the Ninety-second Infantry Division in Italy. After his tour, Griffith returned to Atlanta in 1946 and continued his college studies. He befriended writer and professor Langston Hughes and civil rights activist and ...

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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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Linda M. Carter

artist, art historian, curator, and educator, was born David Clyde Driskell in Eatonton, Georgia, the youngest of four children and the only son of George W. Driskell, a Baptist minister, and Mary L. Clyde Driskell. When Driskell was five years old, his family moved to Polkville, North Carolina, a community located in the Appalachian Mountains. He attended Rutherford County public schools and graduated from Grahamtown High School in 1949. He began his matriculation at Howard University in 1950 where he joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. He married Thelma G. DeLoatch on 9 January 1952, and had two daughters. In 1953 he began studying at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, located in Skowhegan, Maine. After he graduated from Howard with a BA in Art in 1955 Driskell was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U S Army later being ...

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J. Deborah Johnson Sterrett

painter and sculptor, was born on a small farm just outside Kansas City, Kansas, the second of five children of Ed Dwight Sr., a professional baseball player with the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs, and Georgia Baker, a devout Catholic, who took on the primary care of the children. The family moved into Kansas City when Dwight was ten years old and his mother opened a restaurant. The children worked alongside her. Dwight was a precocious child who displayed his artistic talent from age two, drawing cartoon characters and painting throughout his childhood. He began making signs for his mother's restaurant. When he was fourteen years old, he opened his first lucrative business, a sign shop that served retail establishments and area churches.

Dwight attended Catholic schools and graduated from Bishop Ward High School in 1951, and he joined the air force in 1953. In 1955 ...

Article

Monifa Love Asante

visual artist and educator, was born Melvin Eugene Edwards Jr., in Houston, Texas, the eldest of four children of Thelmarie Felton Edwards and Melvin Eugene Edwards Sr. His father was a brilliant and gifted man who worked as a waiter, laborer in the oil industry, photographer, and a professional scout for the Boy Scouts of America. His mother, a seamstress, from whom Edwards learned to sew, was also athletically and artistically talented. His grandmother was a quilter, whose patternmaking and use of color influenced Edwards. Woodcarving was passed down on his father's side, and one of his maternal ancestors was a blacksmith brought to America from West Africa. Both his father and George Gilbert, a family friend that Edwards considered an uncle, were interested in art and they nurtured Edwards. His father built his first easel. Edwards Sr. also passed on a love of music especially ...

Article

Frank Martin

artist, writer, illustrator and educator, was born Elton Clay Fax, the son of Mark Oakland and Willie Estele Fax in Baltimore, Maryland. Fax initially matriculated at the historically black institution Claflin University, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, but completed his studies and received a BFA at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, in 1931. On 12 March 1929, Fax married the former Grace Elizabeth Turner, and their union produced three children.

In 1934 Fax painted a well-received mural, commissioned by the Public Works of Art Projects (PWAP) at Baltimore's Dunbar High School, depicting the incorporation of southern, black agrarians into the urban, industrial north. Fax's representation of the Great Migration and a pluralistic American workforce was an ideal example of the American Social-Realist art that was supported by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal projects Social Realism was a popular style in the 1930s ...

Article

Janet Yagoda Shagam

painter, printmaker, and educator, was born Reginald Adolphus Gammon Jr. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Reginald Gammon Sr. and Martha Brown, Jamaican émigrés. An academic-track student, Gammon graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1941. The caption under his yearbook portrait states that he is “one of the best artists.”

In 1941 Gammon received a scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts (later the Philadelphia Museum College of Art). During the summer of 1942, he worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard refurbishing battleships for the war effort. He lost his scholarship when his job caused him to miss the September registration date, and for the next eighteen months, he worked at the shipyards during the day and went to art school at night. With the arrival of his draft notice, Gammon joined the navy and served from 1944 to 1946 ...

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Brenda K. Delany

expressionist painter, was born Herbert Alexander Gentry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of James Gentry, a commercial printer from Virginia, and Violet Howden, a dancer who immigrated to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica. Herbert's parents married in Pittsburgh and had two children. The elder, Elsa died at age four of pneumonia. In 1923 young Herbert and his mother moved to Harlem where she was hired as a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl and later took the stage name of Theresa Jentry. They lived on 126th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, surrounded by the jazz music, theatrical productions, and art of the Harlem Renaissance. As the son of a dancer, Gentry was continuously exposed to the imaginative world of artists and entertainment. His mother took him to art museums and introduced him to performers, like Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, Count Basie, and Ethel Barrymore This creative ...

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John Hanson Mitchell

photographer and naturalist, was born in Natural Bridge, Virginia. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. In 1881, after attending primary schools in Lexington, Virginia, Gilbert was taken by his family to Lynchburg, Virginia, to complete his education. In 1886 he followed his brother William north to Boston, where he found employment as a porter on the Portland Boston steamship line. He would work various odd jobs until 1896, when psychologist James Chadbourne hired him to help with laboratory rats. Gilbert, as he was generally known in the Boston white community, also took a temporary job setting up a bird museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the renowned nineteenth-century ornithologist William Brewster. Brewster subsequently hired Gilbert as a full-time manservant, field assistant, factotum, and, as some of the early private journal records state, “friend,” to the well-respected Brewster.

Under Brewster s tutelage Gilbert learned how to develop ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

artist, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, the seventh of eight children of Sam Gilliam, a carpenter and truck driver, and Estery C. Cousin, a schoolteacher. Around 1942 the Gilliams moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where Sam's artistic promise was encouraged by his parents and his teachers at Virginia Avenue Elementary School, Madison Junior High School, and Central High School, all segregated public facilities. Following high school graduation in 1951, he enrolled at the newly desegregated University of Louisville, earning a BA in Fine Arts in 1955. After serving two years in the U.S. Army, he returned to the University of Louisville and completed an MA in Painting in 1961 The following year Gilliam moved to Washington D C and married the journalist Dorothy Butler Over the next several years they had three daughters For the next twenty five years Gilliam worked as a teacher first ...

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Cheryl A. Alston

artist and activist, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the third of ten children of Betty Solomon Guyton and George Guyton, a construction worker. His mother reared the children on her own after George Guyton left the-family, when Tyree Guyton was nine years old. Guyton grew up on the east side of Detroit in an area called “Black Bottom,” one of the oldest African American communities in the city. He attended Northern High School, but he did not graduate and earned his GED at a later date.

Guyton began painting at the age of eight when his grandfather, Sam Mackey a housepainter at the time who later became a painter of fine art gave him the tool to create a paintbrush Because of his family s poverty Guyton felt all he had was his art He felt like he had no freedom and he realized early on that ...

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Theresa Leininger-Miller

painter, was born Peyton Cole Hedgeman, the fifth of thirteen children in Widewater, Virginia, to James Hedgeman, an illiterate professional hunter and tour guide for fishermen, and Nancy Hedgeman. Hayden began to draw at the age of four, but he also loved music and longed for a fiddle. He later illustrated these two passions in the painting Midnight at the Crossroads (n.d.), a self-portrait as a boy holding a fiddle, wondering which path to take.

As a teenager, Hayden was part of the Great Migration of African Americans moving to the North and arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1906, where he worked in a drugstore, and then was a roustabout and did graphic design for the Ringling Brothers Circus. In 1912 Hayden joined the U S Army 24th Infantry Regiment in New York with a letter of reference from a timekeeper at the Catskill ...

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Beverley Rowe Lindburg

Civil War soldier, cabinetmaker, and fifty-two-year employee of the Rock Island (Illinois) Arsenal, was born free but was kidnapped by slave traders at around the age of five along with his mother, father, brother, and a sister (all of whose names are unknown) from their home near Muscatine, Iowa. He was first sold as house slave to a man named Pickett from Alabama, and later to an Arkansas planter whose last name he took for a surname; he was generally known as “Milt.” Reports of his age vary greatly: census, military, and burial records indicate he was born between 1821 and 1845.

Howard and another house slave were married in a formal ceremony at the Pickett Plantation a privilege that was customarily afforded only to house servants Several children were born to the couple but all family ties were severed when Howard was sold to the Arkansas ...

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Monifa Love Asante

sculptor and printmaker, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Victoria Inez, a librarian and beauty shop owner and Cleo Howard Hunt, a barber. Hunt's father was born in rural Georgia, his mother in Tennessee. His parents were part of the Great Migration, the early twentieth century exodus of over one million African Americans out of the violent and limiting South to locations where greater economic opportunity and social equality were more likely. His parents met in Chicago, where their families had relocated, and married in 1934. The family lived mostly on the south side of Chicago. Between the ages of nine and eleven, Hunt and the family lived in the small town of Galesburg, Illinois. Hunt's mother sang both professionally and in church. Her idol was Marian Anderson and she named Hunt s younger sister after the noted gospel singer She encouraged her son s ...