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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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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 ...

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Donovan S. Weight

entrepreneur, pioneer, and town founder, was born near the Pacolet River in Union County, South Carolina, the son of an enslaved woman named Juda. His paternity is a bit murky, but most evidence points to his owner George McWhorter. Little information exists about the West African–born Juda other than that she had been a slave to the McWhorters since 1775. Oral family tradition holds that although George McWhorter sent Juda to the woods with orders to kill the baby at birth, Juda protected Frank, preserved him, and brought him home alive the next morning. The boy who would become Free Frank spent his-formative years learning how to farm in the backwoods country of South Carolina. At eighteen Frank moved with his owner to a temporary homestead in-Lincoln County, Kentucky. In 1798 George McWhorter bought some farmland in newly formed Pulaski County Kentucky In ...

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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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Sarah Powers

artist, illustrator, and textile designer, was born in the Bronx, New York. Her father was a public school teacher of Latin and Greek from Augusta, Georgia, while her mother was from Roanoke, Virginia. Piper was raised and spent most of her life in New York City. Her interest in painting began when she was in high school. Although she was offered a four-year scholarship to the Pratt Institute, a New York art school, in 1936 she instead enrolled in Hunter College with the intention of becoming a teacher. In 1940 she graduated, receiving a BA in Fine Arts, with a minor in geometry. From 1943 to 1946 she continued her art education at the Art Students League in New York City, where her most influential teachers were painters Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Vaclav Vytlacil.

Piper was awarded a fellowship from the Rosenwald Foundation in 1946 allowing ...

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A. J. Peluso

deckhand, scowman, sailor, and marine artist, was born in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Nelson Selby and Margaret Hicks, occupations unknown. Nothing more is known of Selby's family, and little is known about his youth. By 1905, as a child of twelve, he was employed as a deckhand working the ships in Mobile Bay—schooners from ports around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. One day his leg was mangled in a snapped towline and had to be amputated. In spite of the loss he managed to engage successfully in various manual and unskilled jobs and earn a precarious living.

Selby spent some of his early working years in Baltimore Maryland as a scowman for the Atlantic Transport Line Even with a peg leg he could climb a rope ladder as deftly as anyone without his disability Nor did the work of scowman suppress ...

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Jennifer Lynn Headley

artist, was born Clarissa Thompson in Washington, D.C., to working-class parents Ethel Mozell Thompson, a domestic worker, and Clarence Thompson, a mailroom clerk. She and her five siblings grew up in a segregated, low-income African American community in Northern Virginia. As a child Sligh noted how African Americans were portrayed in the local Washington Post as criminals and on welfare and collected family photographs to piece together her own history of a positive black American family experience As a teenager she realized that her family was treated differently because of her race and her father placed additional restrictions and chores upon her that were not required of her teenage brothers Her mother was active in the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP and enrolled Sligh in the all white Washington Lee High School in Arlington Virginia because the Negro school did not ...

Article

Paulette Coleman

painter and mixed-media artist, was born William Mack Tolliver in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He was the second oldest of fourteen children in an impoverished family of cotton pickers. Tolliver demonstrated an early interest in art. In first grade, he copied pictures from the newspaper comic strips. By the time he reached the third grade, he was copying elaborate illustrations of Old Testament narratives found in a family Bible. Tolliver's father bragged about his son's drawing ability, but never actively encouraged it. In contrast, Tolliver's mother enjoyed drawing; and even after a tiring workday, she encouraged her children's creativity and curiosity. She held drawing contests with William and his older brother, and she introduced William to art books available at the public library. It is estimated that Tolliver read more than four thousand books, mostly on art, during his youth.

Tolliver never attended a formal art class but he studied Old ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

painter, was born in Mayfield, Kentucky, one of seven children of Frank Wilson, a second-generation barber, and Minnie Wilson, a founding member of the local Second Christian Church. Frank Wilson was an amateur artist, and two of his paintings proudly hung in the Wilson home. Ellis later credited his parents with encouraging his educational and artistic pursuits. The Wilsons lived in The Bottom, the largest of several African American sections of Mayfield, a small town in the heart of western Kentucky's tobacco-growing region. After graduation from the Mayfield Colored Grade School, Ellis studied for two years at the Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute (later Kentucky State University), an all-black school in Frankfort. In 1919 he transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he won several student prizes and studied with the school's first African American instructor, William McKnight Farrow among others Following ...