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 ...
crystal am nelson
photographer, was born Winifred Hall in Jamaica. She moved at age eighteen to New York City, where she enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP), which was founded in 1910. Other notable black graduates of NYIP include Ernest Cole, South Africa's first known black photojournalist, and Matthew Lewis Jr., who won the Pulitzer Prize for his portfolio of silver gelatin and color photography, a first in Pulitzer history, in 1975.
While completing her photography studies, Allen apprenticed with Harlem-based photographer William Woodard in his studio Woodard Studio After Allen graduated sometime between the late 1920s and the early 1930s the precise date is unknown Woodard relocated to Chicago allowing Allen to take over his studio and rename it Winifred Hall Allen Photography Studio While operating her studio Allen also taught at the Mwalimu School of African culture and language which was founded in ...
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 ...
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Cornelius Battey was well known for his photographic portraiture in New York City and Cleveland, Ohio by the age of twenty-seven. At his popular portrait studio on New York's Mott Street, he photographed such well-known people as African American orator and author Frederick Douglass ...
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 ...
Caryn E. Neumann
a portrait photographer, was born David Edward Smikle in Jamaica, Queens, New York, to Mary Smikle and Kenneth Smikle. He changed his name to Dawoud Bey in the early 1970s. Bey received his first camera, an Argus C3 rangefinder, in 1968 and began to learn how to take pictures. In 1973 he apprenticed to Levey J. Smith at MOT Photography Studio in Hollis, New York, and began spending time at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Bey then attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City for a year but left in 1978 to accept an artist's position with the Cultural Council Foundation CETA Artists Project in New York. He graduated with a B.A. from Empire State College, State University of New York, in 1990. He also earned an M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Art in 1993.
Bey emerged as a documentarian of ...
Lisa Kay Davis
photographer and writer, was born in Jackson, Mississippi, the eldest son of eight children of Willie Everrett Bingham, a minister and baggage handler, and Emmaline Bingham, a homemaker whose maiden name is not now known. At the age of four, Bingham and his family moved from Mississippi to Los Angeles. Young Bingham was inspired by his photographer neighbors and developed a strong interest in photography. While attending Compton Junior College in the late 1950s, Bingham, a music major, enrolled in a photography course, for which he received a failing grade. Although he eventually left college, he continued to pursue photography and began an apprenticeship at the Los Angeles Sentinel, one of the largest black‐owned newspapers in the United States. After one month at the Sentinel, he was hired as a staff photographer.
In 1962 the Sentinel sent Bingham to cover a press conference in Los ...
Caryn E. Neumann
a still photographer and documentary filmmaker, was born in Houston, Texas, the second child and only daughter of the schoolteacher Mollie Carroll Parrott and the dentist Frederick Douglas Parrott Sr. At least one grandparent had been born a slave. Both parents were the first in their respective families to obtain advanced college degrees, but racism kept the family poor. The Parrotts lived in the Third Ward, one of Houston's African American neighborhoods, and Blue attended a segregated grade school. As she wrote in her memoir, The Dawn at My Back, the challenges of growing up poor and black in a racist, classist society put a shadow over her life.
Blue did not intend to pursue a career in the visual arts. She enrolled as an English literature student, specializing in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English Renaissance period, at Boston University in 1960 with the goal of becoming ...
Nancy T. Robinson
historian, collector, archivist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born Wallace Michael Branch in Brooklyn, New York, one of two sons of Byrd Branch, an entrepreneur who operated a cleaning and tailoring business in New York City and held down a thirty-five-year job at the weekly newspaper Irish Echo to support his family, and Vera Barbour Branch. In Brooklyn, Branch and his family lived a solid middle-class lifestyle, making their home in a four-floor brownstone home that they owned.
Branch was born with sickle cell anemia a hereditary incurable chronic disorder with which patients suffer severe pain and tissue and organ damage as a result of oxygen and nutrient deficiencies At the time of Branch s birth information about and treatment of the disease were limited According to his family doctors who treated Branch as a child never gave him much hope for survival At fourteen Branch became so ill that he ...
blues and jazz singer and pianist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Butler, who was born blind due to glaucoma, started playing piano when he was six and sang in the choir of the Louisiana State School for the Blind when he was seven. While at the school, he studied classical piano and, starting in eleventh grade, voice training that included opera. He also studied drums, baritone horn, and valve trombone although he did not pursue a career on those instruments.
Butler began playing piano professionally when he was fourteen in Baton Rouge area clubs. While attending the Southern University in Baton Rouge in the late 1960s, he studied with Alvin Batiste, who guided him toward the recordings of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane along with Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Caribbean music. He also had private lessons with Professor Longhair Harold Mabern and Roland Hanna and received a grant ...
one of the pioneers of black women in fashion modeling, was born in Texarkana, Texas; she was the seventh of eight children. Her mother was a school teacher and her father a carpenter and farmer. Dorothy studied biology at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she completed her degree in 1945. She planned to study medicine, but when her mother died she moved to Los Angeles to live with family. While there she earned a master's degree in education at the University of Southern California, married, and started her modeling career.
The fashion industry in the late twentieth century included the major fashion centers of New York and Paris New York was known for its American ready to wear and Paris for its couture or made to order dresses of original designs Fashion models were vital to the display of the designs in both facets of the ...
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 ...
Jason Philip Miller
photographer, was born in Columbus, Ohio. Details about Cowans's upbringing and early education are difficult to come by. He attended local schools and around 1954 matriculated to Ohio University, where he undertook a study of photography. There he fell under the influence and tutelage of the great Clarence White Jr., one of the founders (along with Alfred Stieglitz and others) of the Photo-Secession movement, which helped to solidify photography as a legitimate art form. He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in Photography in 1958 and subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Navy, which he served as a photographer until his discharge in 1960.
Upon leaving military service, Cowans removed to New York, intent on pursuing a career in photography. There he landed a job at Life magazine, at the time perhaps the most famous and widely distributed photo magazine in the United States. With Life ...
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 ...
photographer. Born in Harlem, New York, in 1919, Roy DeCarava knew by the age of nine that he wanted to be an artist. His creative talent led him to the arts-oriented Textile High School. Initially enrolled at the Harlem annex, DeCarava transferred to the better-equipped main campus located in downtown Manhattan. DeCarava went on to attend college at the Cooper Union School of Art. Though inspired by the opportunities the Cooper Union offered, DeCarava left in 1940 and began attending the Works Progress Administration–sponsored Harlem Community Art Center. DeCarava thrived in Harlem's lively visual arts community, where organizations such as the Harlem Artists Guild, founded by the painter Aaron Douglas in 1935 supported classes and forums He met other African American artists and found himself at the center of discussions about African American creative expression In addition to his studies at the Harlem Art Center DeCarava worked ...
photographer, was born on 17 May 1874 in Innishannon, County Cork, Ireland, the son of a resident magistrate. Educated at Mount Saint Mary’s College, a Jesuit school in Derbyshire, England, as a young man he began training for the priesthood. In 1897, however, he had a change of heart and left for South Africa, finding work as a compound guard on the diamond mines of the De Beers Company in Kimberley. He later worked in the dispensary of the compound hospital and the copy room at the company’s head office, as well as serving in both the Anglo-Boer War and World War I.
It was on a return trip to Europe in 1904 that he became interested in photography buying a simple box camera and making his first photographs in Madeira He soon mastered the technical side of the medium and became a keen amateur photographing scenery botany ...
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 ...
Wendy A. Grossman and Sala E. Patterson
was born Casimir Joseph Adrienne Fidelin on 4 March 1915 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city and economic capital. Fidelin posed for several photographers in Paris in the 1930s, including Roger Parry, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), and Man Ray. Although there is remarkably little written documentation about her, Fidelin is widely recognized as the model featured in an extensive assembly of images by Man Ray and acclaimed as the first black model to appear in a major American fashion magazine.
Fidelin emigrated with her family to France following the catastrophic September 1928 hurricane that swept the Caribbean archipelago and the South Florida peninsula killing twelve hundred people on her native island She came of age in Paris in an era in which the influx of émigrés from the French colonies in the Caribbean fueled the creation of a vibrant diasporic Antillean music and dance community that coincided with and ...
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 ...