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.).
Regenia A. Perry, Camara Dia Holloway, Christina Knight, Dele Jegede, Bridget R. Cooks, and Jenifer P. Borum
Diane Mutti Burke
fugitive slave, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on a plantation owned by the Delaney family. Despite his memories of being well treated, his father, Aleck, was sold to pay his master's debts and taken south. Rev. Delaney justified Aleck's sale by claiming that the literate slave had shared ideas about freedom with other slaves in the neighborhood. When Rev. Delaney died in 1831, Alexander's mother, Chloe, was left to Mrs. Delaney, and eighteen-year-old Alexander was left to the master's son, Thomas. Chloe Alexander died six months after Thomas Delaney took her son with him to Missouri.
Delaney settled in western St Charles County Missouri where Alexander married a local slave woman named Louisa He later sold Alexander to Louisa s master Jim Hollman when he moved from the state and the couple spent the next twenty years living with their growing family on the Hollman farm Alexander was ...
Amy J. Buono
Born around 1780 in Rio de Janeiro, Amaral was best known as an artist employed by the Luso-Brazilian Court in Rio. Details of Amaral’s early life and training are scant, including his parentage, but he lived and worked in Rio, where he studied under the artist José Leandro de Carvalho (c. 1770–1834). Amaral continued his studies at the officially sanctioned course of painting and drawing in Rio created by the Marquis of Aguiar (Fernando José de Portugal e Castro, viceroy between 1801 and 1806 The school was administered by the painter Manuel da Costa de Oliveira with whom Amaral studied stage design He also worked as the assistant of José Leandro at the São João Theater Amaral s talents were quickly recognized and he was summoned to do decorative work for the court leaving the theater behind Amaral s oeuvre is especially noteworthy in that it bridged the ...
was born José Toribio Apelo on 7 April 1797 in Santiago, Chile, the illegitimate son of Pascuala Apelo Gormas, the daughter-in-law of the pardo captain Domingo Eustaquio Cruzate (1709–1788). Apelo himself was considered a pardo, a designation commonly applied in eighteenth-century Chile to free men and women of color. At an early age he went to work for the master carpenter Ambrosio Santelices, the most famous sculptor in the Chilean capital at the time, whose shop was located directly across from the current site of the National Library. In this workshop Apelo met and befriended the master’s son, the sculptor Pedro Santelices. At about this time, he also joined the city’s black militia, a group that was charged with the night patrol of the city’s shops and warehouses. On 15 April 1805 Apelo married the master carpenter s daughter María del Carmen the couple would have ...
Rebekah Presson Mosby
The colonial period in America was not noted for its fine arts there was little in the way of sculpture and most of the paintings that were made were stiff portraits in the manner of European mostly British art The puritanical spirit that dominated America at the time was not one that nurtured the arts in general Very little if any experimentation went on in any of the arts as most art was regarded as frivolous and a distraction from what was held to be the serious and important business of religion and work Within this context there is evidence that fine art in the form of portraits was made by Africans in colonial America However most of the known artifacts from both slave and free blacks are the work of artisans Some of this work is of exceptionally high quality and it includes just about every imaginable practical and ...
Kimberly L. Malinowski
skilled daguerrean who practiced photography in Massachusetts and in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Little is known about his early life, other than that he was from Boston, Massachusetts, and was most likely a freeman. He was a pioneer of the daguerreotype. The daguerreotype process is exceedingly laborious and includes polishing the daguerreotype plate, buffing it, coating it with iodine and bromine, exposing the plate in the camera, positioning both the subject and the camera, and then developing it, exposing it to mercury, removing the coating, gilding the image, and then coloring the image as necessary. This process requires highly skilled artists to get a clean image.
While little is known about Bailey, his importance stems from his role in teaching James Presley Ball the art of daguerreotyping in the 1840s Bailey most likely taught Ball in White Sulphur Springs West Virginia Ball was a renowned abolitionist who published ...
Charles L. Hughes
singer and member of the Supremes, was born in Rosetta, Mississippi, the eighth child of Jessie and Lurlee Ballard. In 1953 the Ballards, following the Great Migration path taken by millions of African Americans, moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Jessie Ballard worked in an automobile factory until his death in 1959. The family lived in the Brewster-Douglass Projects, and Ballard's powerful singing voice distinguished her both in school and around the neighborhood. Two of her neighbors, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, who were members of the local singing group the Primes, told their manager, Milton Jenkins, about Ballard, and Jenkins was impressed enough to book Ballard—still in her teens—as a solo act at the Primes' performances.
This early connection between Ballard and the Primes is vitally important both to Ballard s career and to the history of American popular music for two reasons First the Primes would ...
Writer, art collector, and owner of plantations in Jamaica. He was the son of William Beckford, on whose death in 1770 he inherited an enormous fortune. This came under his control when he attained his majority in 1781 and for many years enabled him to travel extensively in Europe, to fund his enthusiasm for building Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire as a Gothic extravaganza to house himself and the books, pictures, and works of art that he collected on a prodigious scale. In the 1790s his income was estimated at well over £100,000 a year, and in 1809 the poet Lord Byron hailed him as ‘England's wealthiest son’. From the 1820s the income from his Jamaican estates declined significantly, and he was forced to sell Fonthill and major parts of his collections. Beckford is remembered as the author of the novel Vathek an Orientalist fantasy published in ...
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 ...
London‐born poet, printer, visionary, and ‘prophet against empire’. Over the course of his lifetime Blake confronted the horrors of slavery through his literary and pictorial art. He was able both to counter pro‐slavery propaganda and to complicate typical abolitionist verse and sentiment with a profound and unique exploration of the effects of enslavement and the varied processes of empire.
Blake's poem ‘The Little Black Boy’ from Songs of Innocence (1789 examines the mind forg d manacles of racial constructions in the minds of individuals both in the poem itself in the form of the black child and his white counterpart and also in the minds of those involved in the political dispute over abolition Seeming to explain a desire for racial acceptance and spiritual purity through assimilation into white British society and seeming also to be endorsing conventional assumptions of white racial superiority the poem ...
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 ...
Dorothy A. Washington
museum cofounder, college equity officer, educator, and community volunteer, was born Fredi Mae Sears in Bradenton, Florida. She was the only daughter of three children born to Mary Miller, a laundress, and Oscar C. Sears Sr., a laborer at a trailer park operated by the local Kiwanis Club. She grew up in a deeply religious community that valued family, friends, and the church, and her father was a deacon and a founding member of St. Mary Baptist Church. Such lived experiences prepared Sears for a life of service.
In 1939 she graduated as valedictorian of her class at Lincoln High School in Bradenton. Upon graduation, she enrolled at Florida A&M College (later University) in Tallahassee, Florida, where in 1944 she earned a bachelor of science degree in Home Economics with minors in Science and English While at Florida A M Sears wrote for the student newspaper and her ...
Lydia Milagros González García
was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 23 December 1751 to Tomás de Rivafrecha y Campeche, a painter, decorator, and gilder, and María Jordán y Marqués, a free white woman. Tomás was a black man and former slave who had purchased his freedom from his slaveowner, Cathedral Canon Don Juan de Rivafrecha. It has been assumed that José dispensed with the name Rivafrecha to be rid of the name of his father’s master and to accentuate his birth as a freeman. In historical documents, Campeche, a mulatto, was referred to as a pardo, a designation based on skin color and birth used in the Spanish casta system José s paternal ancestors black slaves have been traced back three generations but little is known of his mother s family except that she probably came from a family of artists and craftspeople from Tenerife in the Canary Islands located ...
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Campeche was the son of a free black father and a Spanish-born mother. Campeche started drawing at an early age, influenced by his father, who was an artisan. He later had contact with the Spanish painter Luis Paret, who was exiled for three years (1775–1778) in Puerto Rico. Paret, a more experienced and formally trained painter, greatly influenced the style of the gifted Campeche.
Campeche is best known for his paintings of religious images and political figures. Among his works we find some of the first artistic representations of blacks in colonial slave society: the Exvoto de la Sagrada Familia (around 1800, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Collection) and the street scene in Gobernador Ustariz (1789–1792, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Collection). Another example is the artist's lost Self-Portrait that survives in two copies done by Ramón ...
The Caribbean region is more often stereotyped and dismissed in Britain than taken seriously as a location for art production, and has only ever reached small audiences, despite some significant exhibitions and critical attention.
There is little consensus on what defines a coherent category of Caribbean art in terms of its geographical boundaries and cultural character and given its growing diaspora The region s Anglophone countries have contributed the most to art exhibitions staged in the United Kingdom the consequence of a shared colonial history and of migration Throughout the post Second World War period many artists from the Caribbean engaged in struggles for acceptance within the history of ...
Matthew Francis Rarey
was likely born into slavery in the captaincy of Bahia, in the Portuguese colony of Brazil. Little is known of his background or family life. By the second half of the eighteenth-century Chagas had emerged as one of the most important sculptors of the Bahian baroque style and one of two influential baroque religious sculptors of African descent, along with Antônio Francisco Lisboa, “O Aleijadinho” (1730 or 1738–1814), a prolific sculptor active in the captaincy of Minas Gerais. In twentieth-century scholarship, Chagas is frequently known by the nickname “O Cabra” (The Goat), a Portuguese colonial term for a person born to one black and one mulata/o parent. However, this appellation for Chagas does not predate its use by art historian Manuel Querino (1911), casting doubt on its historicity in Chagas’s own life.
By about 1750 Chagas had gained his freedom and found work as ...
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 ...
Matthew Francis Rarey
was born into slavery in Rio de Janeiro, in the Portuguese colony of Brazil. At the time of Cunha’s birth, his mother, an enslaved woman of African descent, was working for the family of the Januário da Cunha Barbosa, a conêgo (canon priest). Manuel was given the priest’s surname. Cunha showed a talent for painting from an early age and, despite his enslaved status, began to study with João de Sousa (fl. eighteenth century), an established religious painter in colonial Rio. While Cunha was his student, Sousa likely also taught Leandro Joaquim (c. 1738–c. 1798), a mulatto painter also active in Rio. Sousa’s mastery of Brazilian baroque painting and many commissions for the city’s churches and religious orders helped to influence Cunha’s style and likely helped to expand Cunha’s professional connections.
In 1757 likely under Sousa s tutelage Cunha completed his most famous work a half length portrait of ...
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 ...