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Regenia A. Perry, Camara Dia Holloway, Christina Knight, Dele Jegede, Bridget R. Cooks and Jenifer P. Borum

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.).

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Joshunda Sanders

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 ...

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Deborah Willis

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 ...

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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 ...

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John Gruber

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 ...

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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 ...

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George Lewis

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 ...

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Scott Yanow

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 ...

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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 ...

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Jason King

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 ...

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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 ...

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Carla Williams

As subjects, photographers, and workers in the photographic field, black women have participated in the medium of photography since its introduction in 1839. Immediately after the announcement of this democratic new medium, photography gained a particular stronghold in the United States, a young nation eager to see itself pictured. To date, scant evidence of black women photographers in the nineteenth century has been uncovered, although one can reasonably hypothesize that black women occupied some of the same roles that white women did in early photographic endeavors—as studio attendant, the person who would prepare subjects for their sittings; as darkroom assistant, helping the photographer to prepare and process his plates; or as photo finisher, adding hand coloring and other enhanced effects to the finished plate or print.

As photographic subjects however black women were very savvy about the new medium and its powers of communication Probably the most famous relationship ...

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Jacqueline M. Smith

African Americans began producing and exhibiting photographs the year after photography's inception in 1839. Long-standing creators and consumers of visual technologies, blacks have used photography to document and explore the diversity of African American experiences.

The sociopolitical dynamics of legalized slavery, antiblack sentiments, and economic expense limited enslaved persons’ opportunities to capture or commission their likenesses—the visual rendering of the original subject or what we now consider a photograph. Despite institutional limitations placed on blacks’ physical and economic agency, free persons of color such as Sojourner Truth (c. 1797–1883), an antiracism activist and feminist suffragist, and Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), a prominent abolitionist and newspaper editor, circulated their photographic likenesses in the form of cartes de visites and cabinet-card portraits. Similarly circumventing U.S. racial segregation, James Presley Ball (1825–1905), Augustus Washington (1820–1875 and the Goodridge brothers active 1860s 1880s were among the ...

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Kobena Mercer

Photography has flourished in Africa since 1839, when the vice regent of Egypt, Khedive Mehmet, experimented with equipment imported from France, just months after Louis Daguerre publicized the invention of the silver-plate process. As a result of interaction with Europeans in coastal cities, Africans acquired technical skills that led to the development of photographic studios in the 1860s. A wide range of regionally distinctive traditions arose during the twentieth century and African photographers have revealed a unique outlook in photojournalism, portraiture, and artistic expression. Diverse insights into African social and cultural life are shown in the reportage of Peter Magubane and David Goldblatt in South Africa; in the French West African portraiture style of Seydou Keita and in the art of contemporary African expatriates in the West such as Touhami Ennadre from Morocco and Rotimi Fani Kayode from Nigeria In contrast to the selective depiction of the continent ...

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Deborah Willis

The first known African Americans to practice the art and business of photography were Jules Lion, James Presley Ball, John B. Bailey, Augustus Washington, and the Goodridge Brothers, between 1840 and 1850. They worked as daguerreotypists, documentarians, artists, and studio photographers. The larger American public was fascinated with the daguerreotype as soon as Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851) publicized the process in France in 1839. The French inventor Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833) produced the earliest extant photographic image, made by a camera obscura in 1826. After the death of Niépce, Daguerre successfully fixed an image and announced to the Paris press his discovery, which he named after himself, the daguerreotype, in January of 1839.

Newspapers in the spring of 1839 published accounts of Americans experimenting with the daguerreotype process. On August 19, 1839 Daguerre publicly announced the process ...

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In September 1839 the front page of the Colored American newspaper carried an article about a process invented by the artist and scientist Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre for permanently fixing an image onto a surface. Named for its inventor, the daguerreotype was the first commercially successful photographic process. The procedure for making daguerreotypes was shared freely with the world, and Americans were quick to embrace the new medium as both subjects and creators. Within a year of the invention the first photographic likenesses created by an African American were exhibited by Jules Lyons a New Orleans artist turned daguerreian practitioners of the process were called daguerreotypists or daguerreians Before the invention of the daguerreotype the visual documentation of places persons objects and events was left to the interpretation of illustrators and painters Only the rich and persons of note could afford the luxury of having their likenesses captured by ...