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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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Joseph S. Mella

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, and publisher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ned Adams, an electrician and occasional sign painter, and Laura. Adams first explored art making by mimicking his father, who, according to Adams, enjoyed drawing. After the divorce of his parents around 1944, Adams lived with his aunt and uncle, Claudia and Caleb Spivey. Although he sought to attend a program for gifted children at the Detroit Institute of Arts, his uncle vehemently prohibited it, preferring that Adams spend his free time working jobs such as delivering newspapers. Adams attended Northwestern High School in Detroit while continuing to live with the Spiveys until age fifteen, when he moved to his father's home.

After graduating from high school in 1951 Adams moved to Romeo Michigan a then rural town forty one miles north of Detroit There Adams worked at ...

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Amalia K. Amaki

sculptor, ceramicist, and educator, was one of America's most prolific and respected three‐dimensional artists in the mid‐twentieth century. Born in Washington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth Davis and Thomas Miggett, he lived primarily with his father until the fall of 1926 when he relocated to Harlem and began living with his mother and her husband, George Artis. In New York he assumed the surname of his stepfather. He attended Haaren High School and went on to study sculpture and pottery at the Augusta Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in the early 1930s, joining the ranks of Jacob Armstead Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and other notable artists whose initial studies included instruction under Savage. Artis was also a contemporary of his fellow sculptors Selma Hortense Burke and Richmond Barthé the latter the most exhibited and honored three dimensional artist associated with ...

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Kyra E. Hicks

quilt historian and researcher, was born in Cincinnati to Walter Ray Sr., a dining car steward for the Southern Railway Company, and Marie Jones, a seamstress and homemaker. After age six, following her mother's death, Benberry and her older brother, Walter Jr., lived in Saint Louis with their maternal grandmother, Letha Jennings.

After earning a BA in 1945 from Stowe Teachers College (later Harris-Stowe State University) in Saint Louis, she married George L. Benberry in 1951. The couple had one son, George Jr., born in 1953. Benberry spent about forty years as a teacher, reading specialist, and librarian for the Saint Louis public school system. She went on to get a certificate of Library Science, also from Stowe, in 1967, and a masters of Education in 1973 from the University of Missouri, Saint Louis.

Benberry s interest in quilting began during a trip ...

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Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

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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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Ingrid Schorr

curator, fashion designer, dancer, and artist, was born James Watson in rural Woodruff, South Carolina, to sharecropper parents whose names are unknown. Little information about his early years is available except that he attended the Fashion Institute of New York and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before moving to New York in the 1960s.

As Chanticleer established himself as a fashion designer in New York City he also began to propagate the biographical embellishments and falsehoods that would be repeated until his death: that he was born in Harlem to a Barbadian concert pianist and a Haitian high school principal; that he completed a master's degree at the Sorbonne; that as a five-year-old he designed a prize-winning folding chair for a competition at the 1940 World's Fair.

Whether or not he grew up in Harlem Chanticleer identified so strongly with its place at the center of black history and ...

Article

Kyra E. Hicks

quilter and textile artist, was born Michael Arthur Cummings in Los Angeles, California, to Arthur Cummings, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service, and Dorothy Dent Cummings Goodson. He was the oldest of three children, including sisters Phyllis and Monica. Cummings attended Fremont High School and Los Angeles City College.

In 1970 Cummings moved to New York, where he attended the Art Students League and later earned a BA in American Art History at Empire College of the State University of New York. His early art mediums were painting, shadow boxes, and collage. The collage and mixed media work of Romare Bearden and appliquéd banners such as those created by the Fon of the Republic of Benin were early artistic influences on Cummings who once made a fabric banner He saw the potential to explore art through fabric and quilts also appreciating that fabrics could be folded shipped and ...

Article

Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

typesetter, potter, and poet, was born and lived his entire life in and around Edgefield, South Carolina, an important center for pottery production in the nineteenth century. Dave's parents were slaves belonging to Samuel Landrum, a Scottish immigrant who had moved his family and slaves to Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1773. The outlines of Dave's life story can be traced through the business activities and legal papers of his various owners, oral history from Edgefield, and Dave's own pottery upon which he inscribed sayings, verses, and dates.

After moving to Edgefield the Landrum family became involved in the making of pottery and other entrepreneurial enterprises. Amos and Abner Landrum, sons of Samuel, became partners with a third man, Harvey Drake, in a pottery concern. Dave first appears in the legal record in a 13 June 1818 mortgage agreement between Harvey Drake and Eldrid Simkins both ...

Article

Mark G. Emerson

As the second son and namesake of his father, Frederick Douglass Jr. was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He attended public schools in Rochester, New York, where he also helped his brothers, Lewis and Charles, to aid runaway slaves who were escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad. While he did not serve in the Civil War as his brothers did, Frederick acted as a recruiting agent for the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry regiments, as did his father. Following the war, Frederick attempted to enter the typographical workers' union. When that plan failed, he went with his brother Lewis in 1866 to Colorado, where Henry O. Wagoner, a longtime family friend, taught him the trade of typography. While he was in Colorado, Frederick worked with his brother Lewis in the printing office of the Red, White, and Blue Mining Company. In the fall of 1868 Frederick returned ...

Article

Renée R. Hanson

sculptor, illustrator, ceramicist, and entrepreneur, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the first of three children born to the Reverend Hathaway and Mrs. Hathaway. Hathaway's mother died when he was only two years old, and his father and grandmother raised him and his two sisters, Fannie and Eva.

A trip with his father to a local museum inspired Hathaway to become an artist. Walking through the museum's galleries, which were filled with busts of famous white American heroes, Isaac noticed the absence of-many African Americans, such as Frederick Douglass. He asked his father why they were absent, and the elder Hathaway simply stated that there were no trained African American sculptors to sculpt prominent African American people. The young Hathaway determined to change this by becoming a trained artist.

Hathaway began his career as an artist at Chandler College in Lexington and continued it ...

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Amalia K. Amaki

painter, graphic artist, and archivist, was born William Richard Hutson in San Marcos, Texas, to Mattie Lee (Edwards) Hudson, a homemaker and employee at Texas State University, and Floyd Waymon Hudson, a laborer, bandleader, and pianist. He grew up with three siblings, Floyd Waymon Jr., Ellen Ruth, and Clarence Albert. When his father died in 1942 his family moved in with his grandmother. In 1949 he entered San Marcos Colored High School. With no art classes at school or in the segregated community, he took a drawing correspondence course in 1951 from Art Instruction, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, working odd jobs to cover costs. His mother died in 1952 at thirty-nine following a long illness, and Hutson moved to San Antonio with his siblings to live with aunts Jewel Littlejohn and Milber Jones in the East Terrace Housing Project, his uncle Wilbur ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Lois Mailou Jones was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of four, she began to copy paintings in the homes of wealthy white people for whom her mother, a beautician and hat maker, worked. Her formal education began in her high school years, when she attended vocational drawing classes in the evenings and on weekends at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She then studied textile design at the Boston Designers Art School before beginning a four-year program in School of the Museum of Fine Arts, from which she was graduated in 1927 with honors in design.

Because she was black, Jones was denied a graduate assistantship and explored what appeared to be her only other option, teaching art at a black school. In 1928 she established an art department at Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia North Carolina At that time art departments at southern black schools ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

artist and teacher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the second of two children of Carolyn Dorinda Adams, a beautician, and Thomas Vreeland Jones, a building superintendent. Jones's father became a lawyer at age forty, and she credited him with inspiring her by example: “Much of my drive surely comes from my father—wanting to be someone, to have an ambition” (Benjamin, 4). While majoring in art at the High School of Practical Arts, Jones spent afternoons in a drawing program at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. On weekends she apprenticed with Grace Ripley, a prominent designer of theatrical masks and costumes. From 1923 to 1927 she studied design at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and became one of the school s first African American graduates Upon graduation Jones who had earned a teaching certificate from the Boston Normal Art School received a one ...

Article

Tritobia Hayes Benjamin

An active and acclaimed painter for more than six decades, Lois Mailou Jones enjoyed two impressive careers, one as a professor of art and the other as an artist. Her teaching gave her financial security and served as an inspiration and a challenge.

Lois Jones was born in Boston to Caroline Dorinda Adams and Thomas Vreeland Jones. Her father was superintendent of a large office building and attended night classes at Suffolk Law School, where he received his law degree in 1915 at the age of forty. “I think that much of my drive surely comes from my father,” Jones once said, “wanting to be someone, having an ambition.” Her mother was a beautician and Jones’s first mentor. She filled the Jones home with color and freshly cut flowers, instilling in her daughter a love of beauty.

With the assistance of four annual tuition scholarships Jones earned a diploma ...

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Amy Helene Kirschke

painter. The African American painter and art educator Lois Mailou Jones became interested in depicting the African heritage during the Harlem Renaissance, when she was greatly influenced by the painter Aaron Douglas. Jones's artistic career spanned more than seventy years, during which time she furthered the cause of African American visual art and addressed issues of prejudice toward both African Americans and women.

Jones was strongly encouraged by her parents to pursue her talents in the visual arts. She grew up in Boston, graduated from the High School of Practical Arts, and then studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where she won four successive scholarships and received a diploma in design in 1927 She spent a summer studying art at Harvard University and then took a position to create an art program at the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina a college ...

Article

Elizabeth Way

fashion designer, was born in Clayton, Alabama, to Jack Lowe and Janey Cole Lowe. Little is known of Jack Lowe, however Janey Lowe and her mother, Georgia Cole, were talented dressmakers. The family moved to Montgomery, Alabama, when Ann was a young child, and her mother and grandmother ran a successful business, designing gowns for the wealthy white women of the city. They taught Ann their skills, and by the age of five she could recreate flowers from the garden with their fabric scraps. Though many women could sew in the early twentieth century, Lowe learned advanced dressmaking techniques that equipped her to create couture-quality gowns, as well as to own and operate her own business, a rare achievement for a black woman at the time.

In December 1914 Janey Lowe died leaving the sixteen year old Ann to finish four gowns ordered by the first lady of ...

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Kyra E. Hicks

one of America's most prominent quilters and African American quilt history advocates, was born Carolyn Stewart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Edward Stewart, a chemical engineer, and Thelma Stewart, a librarian. The eldest of four children, she earned her undergraduate degree in 1977 at Northrop University in Inglewood, California. In 1984 she received her PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. As a child, her favorite aunt encouraged Mazloomi's fascination with airplanes and flying. She became a licensed pilot in 1974 and retired from a career as an aerospace engineer and Federal Aviation Administration crash site investigator. Mazloomi and her husband, Rezvan, married in 1975 and resided in West Chester, Ohio. They had three children, Damian Patrick, Farzad, and Farhad.

Mazloomi taught herself to quilt after seeing a traditional patchwork quilt with American eagles in each corner at ...

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Makeba G. Dixon-Hill

painter and poet, was an enslaved servant for the Reverend John Moorhead, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Sarah Moorhead, in Boston, Massachusetts. Limited information is available about Scipio Moorhead's place of birth or parents, but historically a large majority of the slaves in Massachusetts came from the West Indies or the Western coast of Africa.

As slavery in the United States became inextricably linked to the nation s economy society government and identity race assumed a larger role in becoming a determining factor regarding occupational opportunities In terms of the fine arts race determined who could be trained There were few schools in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries where blacks could receive specialized training or venues that would exhibit their work The alternatives for many artists were at the hands of fellow slaves freed blacks working as artisans or through their owners families who provided knowledge ...

Article

Despite Scipio Moorhead's position as a slave in the home of John Moorhead, a Presbyterian minister in Boston, he managed to develop his artistic talent. Sarah Moorhead, a painter who was the wife of the minister, probably provided some instruction.

The painting of African-American poet Phillis Wheatley that inspired the engraved frontispiece of her book of poetry is attributed to Moorhead. The volume, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published in London in 1773 and created public debate concerning the intellectual abilities of those of African descent.

Unfortunately no signed works by Moorhead are known to exist. It is believed that it is Moorhead whom Wheatley immortalized with her 1773 poem, To S. M., A Young African Painter, on Seeing His Work. The poem is thought to be inspired by Scipio Moorhead and describes two paintings presumably by Moorhead, Aurora and Damon and Pythia ...