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Michael Bieze

artist, was born in Colquitt County, Georgia, son of John Henry Adams, a former slave and preacher in the Methodist Church, and Mittie Rouse. Many questions surround Adams's early life. While he reported in an Atlanta Constitution article (23 June 1902) that he came from a humble background, his father served parishes throughout Georgia. According to the History of the American Negro and His Institutions (1917), Adams Sr. was a man of accomplishment, leading black Georgians in a colony in Liberia for two years and receiving two honorary doctorates, from Bethany College and Morris Brown University. Educated in Atlanta schools, Adams claimed in the Atlanta Constitution article to have traveled to Philadelphia in the late 1890s to take art classes at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (later Drexel University). Drexel, established in 1891 opened its doors to a diverse student ...

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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 ...

Article

Genevieve Slomski

pioneer of abstract painting, was born Edward Clark in the Storyville section of New Orleans, Louisiana. Little is known about his family, but they moved north during the Depression, and he was raised in Chicago.

Following service in the U.S. Air Force, Clark attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under the G.I. Bill from 1947 to 1951. At the Art Institute, he met abstract painter Joan Mitchell, with whom he developed a lifelong friendship, and the impressionist painter Louis Ritman, who was an encouraging instructor. During this period, Clark's work was traditional and figurative. But Clark's frustration with the Institute's academic restraints, such as the directive to avoid oils during this period, led-him to create an experimental self-portrait that took two years to complete. The classic head-and-shoulders depiction was set against a Renaissance landscape consisting of subtle layers of stippled watercolors.

In 1952 Clark ...

Article

Phoebe Wolfskill

painter, illustrator, and graphic artist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second oldest of nine children of Herbert and Irene Crichlow, immigrants from Barbados. Using his bricklaying and plastering skills, Crichlow's father made beautiful, patterned ceiling decorations that Ernest recalled as his earliest artistic inspiration. In the 1920s Crichlow won his first artistic commission: a neighborhood preacher paid him and a close friend to paint a black Jesus on a window shade. Not only did this assignment encourage Crichlow to pursue a career in art, it also marked the beginning of his work with black subjects.

Realizing Crichlow's artistic potential, his art teachers at Haaren High School in Brooklyn raised money for a scholarship for him to attend the School of Commercial Illustrating and Advertising Art in Manhattan. In a 1968 interview Crichlow recalled that he left school during the height of the Depression but whether this ...

Article

Joseph D. Ketner

painter, was born in Fayette, New York, the son of John Dean Duncanson, a carpenter and handyman, and Lucy Nickles. Robert's grandfather Charles Duncanson was a former slave from Virginia who was emancipated and around 1790 moved north. Perhaps because he was the illegitimate offspring of his master, Charles had been permitted to learn a skilled trade and later to earn his release from bondage. After the death of Charles, the Duncanson family moved west to the boomtown of Monroe, Michigan, on the tip of Lake Erie. There Robert, along with his four brothers, was raised in the family trades of house painting, decorating, and carpentry, a legacy of his grandfather's bondage. At the age of seventeen, after several years of apprenticeship, Robert entered into the painting trade with a partner, John Gamblin, advertising as “Painters and Glaziers.”

For unknown reasons the painting partnership disbanded after ...

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 ...

Article

M'Lissa Kesterman

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 ...

Article

Juanita Patience Moss

abolitionist, Union soldier, barber, politician, and journalist, was born to free parents near Alexandria, Virginia. His mother was Patsy Johnson, but his father's name is unknown. At twelve, Johnson left Virginia and ventured to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to learn the apothecary business, but instead he decided to be a hairdresser. He moved to Albany, New York, in 1851 and became interested in the abolitionist movement. After returning to Philadelphia in 1855 he joined the Banneker Literary Society to write and speak against slavery. Later, in 1859, he was caught helping fugitive slaves escape via the Underground Railroad, and he was forced to flee the city to avoid imprisonment.

Johnson was a Freesoiler in his younger days, having trained with the old antislavery party that included such notables as Frederick Douglass, Bishop Logan, and Octavius Catto For many years a staunch Republican ...

Article

Jennifer Ky

painter, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Holdridge Primus, a porter at a grocery store and an active member of the Talcott Street Congregational Church, and Mehitable Jacobs, a dressmaker. The Primuses, one of the few African American families in the state to own property, consisted of the parents, Nelson, and his siblings Rebecca, Isabelle, and Henrietta, and their home was located on Wadsworth Street in Hartford. During Reconstruction, Rebecca Primus was active in efforts to educate the southern freedmen. Nelson Primus discovered his artistic talent at an early age. At the Hartford County Fair, he was recognized twice: in 1851, when he was only nine years old, he received a diploma for his sketches, and in 1859 he received a medal for his drawings.

Nelson Primus wanted to pursue that talent by painting professionally His father likely thought that this ...

Article

Dewey Franklin Mosby

painter and draughtsman, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Benjamin Tucker Tanner, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and editor of the Christian Recorder, and Sarah Miller. Tanner's parents were strong civil rights advocates; his middle name, Ossawa, was a tribute to the abolitionist John Brown of Osawatomie.

The Tanner family moved in 1868 to Philadelphia, where Henry saw an artist at work in Fairmont Park and “decided on the spot” to become one. His mother encouraged this ambition although his father apprenticed him in the flour business after he graduated valedictorian of the Roberts Vaux Consolidated School for Colored Students in 1877. The latter work proved too strenuous for Tanner, and he became ill. After a convalescence in the Adirondacks, near John Brown's farm, in 1879 he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and studied under Thomas Eakins ...