Term used to describe art made by Americans of African descent. While the crafts of African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continued largely to reflect African artistic traditions (see Africa, §VIII), the earliest fine art made by professional African American artists was in an academic Western style (see fig.).
Regenia A. Perry, Camara Dia Holloway, Christina Knight, Dele Jegede, Bridget R. Cooks and Jenifer P. Borum
Camara Dia Holloway
photographer, was born in New York City to Virginia Allen, a dressmaker who migrated from the British Virgin Islands in 1900, and an unidentified father. James attended Dewitt Clinton High School, where he discovered photography through the school's camera club, the Amateur Cinema League. The school was fertile ground for several members of the upcoming Harlem Renaissance, including the poet Countee Cullen, whose first published piece appeared in the school magazine, the Magpie. The artist Charles Alston also developed his talents as the art editor for the Magpie and leader of the art club. In 1923 Allen began a four year apprenticeship at Stone Van Dresser and Company a white owned illustration firm where he received additional instruction in photography Louis Collins Stone the firm s owner and a portrait painter and his wife seem to have taken a personal interest in Allen and ...
Kimberly L. Malinowski
skilled daguerrean who practiced photography in Massachusetts and in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Little is known about his early life, other than that he was from Boston, Massachusetts, and was most likely a freeman. He was a pioneer of the daguerreotype. The daguerreotype process is exceedingly laborious and includes polishing the daguerreotype plate, buffing it, coating it with iodine and bromine, exposing the plate in the camera, positioning both the subject and the camera, and then developing it, exposing it to mercury, removing the coating, gilding the image, and then coloring the image as necessary. This process requires highly skilled artists to get a clean image.
While little is known about Bailey, his importance stems from his role in teaching James Presley Ball the art of daguerreotyping in the 1840s Bailey most likely taught Ball in White Sulphur Springs West Virginia Ball was a renowned abolitionist who published ...
Born free in Virginia, James Presley Ball opened several short-lived businesses in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1845, 1847, and 1849. Two years later he established his first successful photography studio, which prospered until the early 1870s. Active in the movement for Abolitionism in the United States, he commissioned a 2,400 sq ft painted antislavery panorama, Ball's Splendid Mammoth Pictorial Tour of the United States Comprising Views of the African Slave Trade; of Northern and Southern Cities; of Cotton and Sugar Plantations; of the Mississippi, Ohio and Susquehanna Rivers, Niagara Falls (1855).
In 1887 Ball became the official photographer for a celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After his move to Helena, Montana that same year, he was elected to several local political and civic positions. Ball moved to Seattle, Washington, around 1900 and opened Globe Studios He ...
Charles L. Hughes
singer and member of the Supremes, was born in Rosetta, Mississippi, the eighth child of Jessie and Lurlee Ballard. In 1953 the Ballards, following the Great Migration path taken by millions of African Americans, moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Jessie Ballard worked in an automobile factory until his death in 1959. The family lived in the Brewster-Douglass Projects, and Ballard's powerful singing voice distinguished her both in school and around the neighborhood. Two of her neighbors, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, who were members of the local singing group the Primes, told their manager, Milton Jenkins, about Ballard, and Jenkins was impressed enough to book Ballard—still in her teens—as a solo act at the Primes' performances.
This early connection between Ballard and the Primes is vitally important both to Ballard s career and to the history of American popular music for two reasons First the Primes would ...
Amalia K. Amaki
photographer and educator, was born in Augusta, Georgia, to Florida and Robert Battey, both laborers. He was living in New York City by his late teens and had become one of the most famous African American photographers in the country by 1900, although nothing is known about his educational background. In 1900 Battey married Anna H. Stokes, who gave birth to two daughters, Edyphe F. (born 1901) and Antoinette (born 1908). Affiliated with studios in Cleveland and New York, his primary base, he enjoyed a lucrative career as a studio and commercial photographer with a respected reputation among Americans and Europeans. He was superintendent of the Bradley Studio in New York with such clientele as Sir Thomas Lipton and Prince Henry of Prussia, and was a partner in Battey and Warren Studio in the city.
Battey made classic photogravure portraits of the Tuskegee Normal and ...
Amalia K. Amaki
photographer and businessman, was born in New Orleans, where he remained professionally based throughout his sixty-plus-year career.
The leading African American photographer in New Orleans in the first half of the twentieth century, Bedou saw his reputation grow to national proportions as a result of his images of the life and travel of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University) President Booker T. Washington from the early 1900s through 1915. He photographed Washington at public-speaking engagements addressing crowds in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, California, and numerous other locations during his final tour, which ended in 1915. He recorded Washington in transit by coach, train, and automobile in addition to his famous portraits of the education leader posed upon his horse.
As official photographer for the Institute, Bedou covered any number of events for the school. He recorded the 24 October 1905 ...
Samuel W. Black
photographer and fraternal leader, was born in Kearneysville, West Virginia, the eleventh of thirteen children of Allen Cole, a wagon maker, blacksmith, and carpenter, and Sarah Jenkins Cole. The Cole family numbered among the 4,045 African Americans in Jefferson County, West Virginia's most populous county in 1880. Although he came from a humble background, the elder Cole was able to send some of his children to Storer College in Harpers Ferry, eight miles east of Kearneysville. Allen “Allie” Cole was enrolled at Storer in October 1900, following his older brother Hughes and older sister Lucy, both of whom attended in the early 1890s. The first school of higher education for African Americans in West Virginia, Storer College was founded in Harpers Ferry in 1867 under the condition that it did not discriminate by race gender or color At Storer Cole completed courses in industrial ...
photographer, artist, and educator, was born in Harlem, New York City, the only child of Andrew DeCarava and Elfreda Ferguson. DeCarava never knew his father; his mother worked as a clerical worker for the Work Projects Administration.
Elfreda DeCarava arrived in New York from Jamaica as the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North was transforming Harlem into a predominantly African American community. She tried to foster her son's creativity as a single mother when he was a boy by getting him a violin and an expensive velvet short suit, in which he said he used to run through Harlem to get to practice. While DeCarava never became a violinist, he became actively interested in and a part of a wide range of artistic endeavors from sketching to movies.
As an eight year old boy he used chalk or pieces of Plaster ...
James Conway Farley was born to slave parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia, on August 10, 1854. Following the death of his father, Farley and his mother moved in 1861 to Richmond, Virginia, where his mother was a storeroom keeper at the Columbia Hotel. He assisted in making candles, learned to read and write, and attended public schools for three years. After working briefly with a baker, he was employed in 1872 in the chemical department of the photographic establishment of C. R. Rees and Company in downtown Richmond. During a number of years after 1875, he set the scene and made photographs for the G. W. Davis Photograph Gallery, also in downtown Richmond on Broad Street. In 1895 he opened his own studio, the Jefferson Fine Arts Gallery.
For thirty five years Farley prospered in a profession that had few black men When four white ...
Donna M. Wells
artist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Thomas Freeman and Sarah Freeman. Following his father's death, in 1877 he and his sister Delilah moved with their mother to Washington, where Freeman attended Washington, D.C., public schools and excelled in drawing and painting. It is not known if he finished high school. He held a variety of jobs, including laborer and waiter, to help support the family.
In 1885, at the age of seventeen, Freeman started to advertise his services as a painter in addition to art framer and bicycle repairman. Gradually he began to pursue a career as an artist and photographer. His early work consisted of pastel drawings of Washington's elite African American community. His most famous portraits were of the Washington lawyer John Mercer Langston, completed in 1893, and of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1895 That ...
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 ...
photographer, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and attended Howard High School in Chattanooga. His parents were King and Hattie Murfrees Ganaway. Ganaway did not go to college, although his sister, Mamie Egester, graduated from college in Chattanooga. He worked as a butler from 1906 to 1925 for Mary A. Lawrence, the widow of Edward F. Lawrence, a prominent Chicagoan, who lived on Lake Shore Drive, Chicago's “Gold Coast.” During these years, he tried to revive a childhood interest in drawing, but frustrated with his efforts, he turned to photography. He was self-taught, spending his off days perfecting his photographic skills.
Ganaway's photo, “Spirit of Transportation”—an image of two sections of a passenger train, the 20th Century Limited, arriving in Chicago on a cold day in February 1918 captivated the media when it won the first prize in the fifteenth annual exhibition of photographs at ...
Robert L. Gale
bibliophile, researcher, and photographer, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Jacob Gardiner and Martha (maiden name unknown). In 1902 he and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From childhood he was interested in reading, cross-country running, hiking, camping, and bicycling. Later he developed an interest in music, choir singing, and photography. Racial discrimination kept him from attending the photography school of his choice in Philadelphia, to his great disappointment. In the early 1900s he began to collect material of various kinds concerning black achievements, black institutions, and the lynching of blacks.
From about 1908 to 1923 Gardiner attended meetings of the Philadelphia Afro American Historical Society later the American Negro Historical Society expressed his ideas and described his findings in what he called race literature He continued to build his collection of black memorabilia and helped to form a group of bibliophiles ...
athlete, photographer, and poet, was born Gilbert Heron in Kingstown, Jamaica. Though he was a talented photographer, particularly of sporting events, and a notable poet, publishing a collection entitled I Shall Wish Just for You as late as 1992, Heron's fame derives from neither. He remains best known as a pioneering nonwhite sportsman in the United Kingdom in the 1950s and as father to the eclectic, prolific, and hugely influential jazz musician and wordsmith Gil Scott-Heron.
Heron came to attention as an association football or soccer player for the Detroit Corinthians although he had previously turned out for the Canadian Air Force Detroit Wolverines and Chicago Sting Standing just below five feet ten inches and weighing just under 178 pounds Heron had the speed and agility that gave him the perfect characteristics for football s target man and goal scorer the center forward In the ...
jazz bassist, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother played piano and organ and directed the church choir. Hinton moved with his family to Chicago when he was eleven years old. Two years later he began studying violin, sticking with it for four years. While attending Chicago's Wendell Phillips High Schools, he learned to play bass horn, cello, tuba, and string bass. He went to Crane Junior College (now Malcolm X College) from 1929 to 1930.
By then Hinton was already working in Chicago-area clubs, doubling on bass and tuba; he would give up the latter within a couple of years. He gained important early experience working with Freddie Keppard, Jabbo Smith, Art Tatum, Fate Marable, Erskine Tate's orchestra, and the pianist Tiny Parham, making his recording debut with Parham in 1930. His main job between 1931 and 1936 was with the ...
photographer, was born in Madison, Indiana, one of six children of Alexander A. Hunster, a barber, and Catherine Campbell Hunster. The Hunsters were both free blacks whose families had left the South in the mid- to late 1830s.
When Richard was only a few years old the Hunsters moved to Portsmouth Ohio where his father was employed as a barber aboard an Ohio River steamboat There is limited information available about Hunster s early life but his family apparently lived comfortably in Portsmouth Hunster and his siblings attended school although their education was probably limited to the elementary grades Growing up in a town along the river and having a father who worked on a steamboat Hunster no doubt visited the Portsmouth wharf regularly and marveled at the big paddle wheelers that plied up and down the Ohio River These childhood images of steam rising from the ...
Donna M. Wells
photographer, was born in Washington, D.C., into a middle-class family. His father was a physician, and his mother was an educator. In the 1930s he attended Dunbar High School, where his classmates included future photographers Harrison Allen and brothers Bobby and George Scurlock, sons of prominent African American photographer Addison Scurlock. Allen recalled that on several occasions the boys walked from school to Scurlock's photography studio at Ninth and U Streets to watch him work. This sparked their interest in pursuing photography, first as a hobby, then as a career. The Scurlocks later took over their father's studio, and Allen became a photographer for the Department of Labor.
McNeill entered Howard University as a pre-med student but kept up his skills by photographing campus events, particularly celebrity visitors to the university. When Olympic track star Jesse Owens made a campus visit McNeill snapped a picture of ...
filmmaker, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the eldest son of Sally Alvis and Gordon Parks Sr., the latter an award-winning photojournalist, author, composer, and filmmaker. Born less than a year into his parents' marriage, Gordon Jr. was nicknamed Butch as a newborn by his maternal grandfather, Joe Alvis. “There was not too much I could give my first three children being a waiter on a railway,” recalled Gordon Parks Sr. in the 2001 film documentary Half Past Autumn. In 1940 the Parks family moved to Chicago. There Gordon Jr. spent much of his childhood while his father forged his career. Parks developed a passion for riding horses, which became a lifelong interest.
When he was sixteen Parks moved to Paris, where his father had been assigned for two years by Life magazine In Europe he developed a keen interest in the fine arts also cultivating ...
Lisa E. Rivo
photographer, filmmaker, author, and composer, was born Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks in the small prairie town of Fort Scott, Kansas, to Andrew Jackson Parks, a dirt farmer, and Sarah Ross, a maid. Gordon was the youngest of fifteen children, the first five of which, he later discovered, were really half siblings, born to his father and a woman other than his mother. Parks's poor Kansas childhood, and his memories of its unbridled racism, feature prominently in his later work, especially his books “thick with those memories.” The first phase of Parks's life ended with the death of his mother in 1928. “Before the flowers on my mother s grave had wilted Parks remembered my father had me on a train to my sister in Minnesota I ran into some hell there Russell 145 Within a month of his arrival in Minneapolis ...