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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“Art must be the quintessence of meaning. Creative art means you create for yourself. Inspirations can come from most anything. Tell the world how you feel … take the chance … try, try!” This statement by Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller reflects the spirit of a woman who created bold, dramatic work that took new chances in African American art. Fuller was born in Philadelphia in 1877, the daughter of two successful entrepreneurs—her father owned a catering business and a barber shop, and her mother was a hairdresser—and grew up in a privileged home, receiving lessons in art, music, dance, and horseback riding. When one of her high school projects at the J. Liberty Tadd Industrial Art School was selected to be part of Tadd's exhibit at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, her public career as an artist began.

In 1894 Fuller received a three year scholarship ...

Article

Sylvia Arnstein

one of America’s first studio sculptors of African American ancestry who was an integral part of the artistic and social ferment that subsequently blossomed into the Harlem Renaissance. Described by her peers as “elegantly Victorian” and “deeply spiritual,” Meta Warrick Fuller was, according to W. E. B. Du Bois, “one of those persons of ability and genius whom accidents of education and opportunity had raised on a tidal wave of chance.”

Meta Vaux Warrick was born in Philadelphia to William H. Warrick Jr., a master barber, and Emma (Jones) Warrick a wigmaker and hairdresser Both owned and managed their own businesses in Philadelphia and Atlantic City New Jersey where the family spent its summers Emma Warrick s father operated a catering business and like his daughter served a largely white clientele A great grandmother brought to the American colonies as a slave was purported to be an ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

sculptor, was born Meta Vaux Warrick in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William H. Warrick and Emma Jones. Meta's great grandmother, according to family lore, was an Ethiopian princess brought to the American colonies as a slave. Emma owned and operated several hairdressing parlors that catered to a white clientele. William owned a chain of barbershops and dabbled in real estate. Meta was ten years younger than her two siblings, William and Blanche. Through lessons and field trips to museums and concerts, the Warricks introduced their children to art and encouraged their creative endeavors. Meta, who played the guitar, took dancing lessons, and sang in the church choir, exhibited an early talent for drawing.

After graduation from public high school in 1894, Warrick won a three-year scholarship to the Pennsylvania Museum and School for Industrial Arts (now the Philadelphia College of Art). In 1897 her ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

sculptor. Born into a middle-class family in Philadelphia, Meta Vaux Warrick received a strong liberal arts education that included private lessons in dance, music, art, and horseback riding. She was recognized early as an artist when one of her sculptures was accepted for exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Warrick received formal art training at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts), from which she graduated with a diploma and teaching certificate in 1898.

Like many other artists of the era she left for Paris as soon as possible after her graduation to continue her training and to work in a more open and racially free environment While in Paris she studied at the Académie Colarossi to refine her sculpture techniques and at the École des Beaux Arts to improve her drawing Even in Paris with ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

musician, activist, author, painter, and sculptor, was born Richard Pierce Havens in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of nine children. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. His father, Richard Havens, worked as a metal plater and dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, eventually learning to play a number of instruments. Richie's mother Mildred a bookbinder and casual singer at home encouraged her young son when he started singing background vocals at the age of twelve for local groups All kinds of music were played in the Havens home Richie s grandmother listened to Yiddish gospel and big band music his mother enjoyed country music and his father loved jazz He joined the doo wop singing group the Five Chances at age fifteen and performed the next year with the Brooklyn McCrea Gospel Singers a group that sang hymns for neighborhood churches Havens ...

Article

Gregory Eiselein

In his third-person autobiography, From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol (1894), John Mercer Langston recounts his career as one of the most influential African American leaders of the nineteenth century. Born in Virginia and educated at Oberlin, Langston became in 1854 the first African American admitted to the Ohio bar and in 1855 the first elected to public office in the United States (town clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio). Throughout the 1850s he worked within antislavery and civil rights movements, advocating a nationalist, pro-emigration position before becoming a Republican party activist. Heading recruitment of African American soldiers in the West during the Civil War, he rose to national prominence after the war as the president of the National Equal Rights League (a forerunner of the NAACP), an educational inspector for the Freedmen's Bureau, and a Republican party organizer. In 1868 he accepted a professorship at Howard ...

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Aimee Lee Cheek and William Cheek

John Mercer Langston was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part–Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles's will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839, however, when a court hearing, concluding that his guardian's impending move to Missouri (a slave state) would imperil the boy's freedom and inheritance, forced him to leave the family. Subsequently, he boarded in four different homes, white and black, in Chillicothe and Cincinnati worked ...

Article

Aimee Lee Cheek and William Cheek

political leader and intellectual, was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part-Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles's will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839 when a court hearing concluding that his guardian s impending move to slave state Missouri would imperil the boy s freedom and inheritance forced him to leave the family Subsequently he boarded in four different homes white and black in Chillicothe and Cincinnati worked ...

Article

Thomas Adams Upchurch

Born in Virginia to a wealthy white planter and a slave mother, John Mercer Langston was one of the most influential African Americans of the nineteenth century. Widely regarded by contemporaries and historians alike as second in importance only to Frederick Douglass, Langston actually superseded the venerable Douglass in certain ways. Although Douglass enjoyed more widespread renown, Langston held more government positions and had a more varied career. The two men first met in 1848 and maintained a friendship for many years thereafter. They disagreed on some important racial issues, however, which sometimes led to hard feelings and, near the end of their lives, an intense rivalry that most observers would say made them bitter enemies.

Langston was about ten years younger than Douglass and while they were both mulattoes born to slave mothers their upbringings could hardly have been more different Whereas Douglass endured the most abhorrent circumstances ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

artist and writer, was born Faith Willie Jones at Harlem Hospital in New York City, the youngest of three children of Willi(e) Edell (Posey) and Andrew Louis Jones Sr., a truck driver for the city sanitation department. The Joneses separated in the early 1930s and divorced in 1942, by which time Willi Jones had begun work as a seamstress in the garment district. By the 1950s, using the name Madame Willi Posey, she had established a small dressmaking and design business in Harlem. Faith, who suffered from severe asthma and missed kindergarten and much of first grade because of her illness, enjoyed an especially close relationship with her mother, who organized creative projects to occupy her curious daughter. After graduating from Morris High School (she spent the first three years at George Washington High School) in 1948 Faith Jones began studying art at the City ...

Article

Painter and sculptor Faith Ringgold has spent her artistic career breaking boundaries and opening opportunities for African American creativity, especially that of women. Born in New York City and raised in Harlem, Ringgold earned a bachelor's degree in art and education in 1955 and a master's of fine arts degree in 1959 from The City College of New York. Dissatisfied with the traditional art training she received in New York and later in Europe, Ringgold studied African art, reading the work of Black Arts Movement authors and participating in the Civil Rights Movement. Paintings from this period—including The Flag Is Bleeding (1967), US Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power (1967) and Die (1967)—blend the geometric shapes and flat perspective of African-inspired artistic traditions with powerful political and social protest.

Ringgold has been an outspoken critic of racial and gender prejudice ...

Article

Michele M. Humphrey

Faith Ringgold is recognized as one of the leading artists of the twenty-first century. Her work appeared in many major museums around the world and resides in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Faith Jones Ringgold was born in Harlem, New York. She was the third child of Willi Posey Jones, a dressmaker and professional fashion designer, and Andrew Louis Jones Sr., a sanitation worker. She was troubled with asthma at an early age and found herself drawn to art as a way to pass the time. Inspired by her mother’s career and determined to pursue her own dream of becoming an artist, she enrolled at the City College of New York in 1948 Her first social barrier presented itself when she learned that women were not allowed to major in art at the ...

Article

Frank Martin

artist, educator, and community activist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Edward Rose Sr. and Mary Marshall. Arthur Rose attended the segregated public schools in Charleston. In 1942 Rose enlisted as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy; he served until 1945. A member of Company 1621, 18th Regiment, 28th Battalion of the U.S. Naval Reserve Corps, Rose entered basic training in Chicago and was later stationed at the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, for the duration of the war, and did not see combat. He returned to Charleston and graduated from Burke High School in 1946. He later matriculated at Claflin University, South Carolina's oldest historically black institution of higher learning, established in 1869.

Rose was among the first students in Claflin s history to major in fine arts During his college tenure Rose met and married fellow ...

Article

J. Deborah Johnson Sterrett

painter and sculptor, was born in Gloster, Mississippi, the fourth of six children to Reverend James W. Washington, a cabinetmaker and an associate minister at the Gloster Baptist Church, and Lizzie, a homemaker. The birth year for Washington has been reported between 1909 and 1911 Washington made a futile effort to obtain a birth certificate and is reported to have rejected the notion of chronological age In the rural segregated town of Gloster Washington endured poverty unequal education and racially fueled terrorism that propelled him into a lifetime fight for social justice As a boy of six he saw his father under threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced to flee town in the trunk of a white friend s car Wasington never saw him again Without his father Washington forged a greater bond with his mother whom he credits for nurturing his natural talents in the ...