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 ...
Rebekah Presson Mosby
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 ...
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 ...
Nancy T. Robinson
historian, collector, archivist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born Wallace Michael Branch in Brooklyn, New York, one of two sons of Byrd Branch, an entrepreneur who operated a cleaning and tailoring business in New York City and held down a thirty-five-year job at the weekly newspaper Irish Echo to support his family, and Vera Barbour Branch. In Brooklyn, Branch and his family lived a solid middle-class lifestyle, making their home in a four-floor brownstone home that they owned.
Branch was born with sickle cell anemia a hereditary incurable chronic disorder with which patients suffer severe pain and tissue and organ damage as a result of oxygen and nutrient deficiencies At the time of Branch s birth information about and treatment of the disease were limited According to his family doctors who treated Branch as a child never gave him much hope for survival At fourteen Branch became so ill that he ...
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 ...
one of the pioneers of black women in fashion modeling, was born in Texarkana, Texas; she was the seventh of eight children. Her mother was a school teacher and her father a carpenter and farmer. Dorothy studied biology at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she completed her degree in 1945. She planned to study medicine, but when her mother died she moved to Los Angeles to live with family. While there she earned a master's degree in education at the University of Southern California, married, and started her modeling career.
The fashion industry in the late twentieth century included the major fashion centers of New York and Paris New York was known for its American ready to wear and Paris for its couture or made to order dresses of original designs Fashion models were vital to the display of the designs in both facets of the ...
baseball player and artist, was born Curtis Charles Flood in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children of Herman and Laura Flood. In 1940 the family moved to Oakland, California. Flood's older brother, Carl, who had trouble with the law from childhood, slipped into a life of crime. Flood, however, began playing midget-league baseball at the age of nine. George Powles coached the team and produced, besides Curt Flood, such players as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Joe Morgan, and Jesse Gonder. The other factor that kept Flood out of trouble was encountering Jim Chambers who encouraged his interest and development as an artist at Herbert Hoover High School in Oakland Flood played baseball throughout his teenage years and became a promising athlete However he was small weighing barely one hundred forty pounds and standing only five feet seven inches tall as a senior in ...
sculptor and proprietor of a large marble yard and monument business, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the eldest son and third child of [René] Prosper Foy (b. 1787–d. 1854), a Napoleonic veteran, marble cutter, businessman, and writer, who had immigrated to the city from France in 1807, and Azelie Aubry (b. c. 1795–d. 1870), a free woman of color, native to New Orleans. Because interracial marriage was illegal, Foy's parents never married, but their sometimes stormy union lasted from 1810 until Prosper Foy's death; Aubry subsequently referred to herself in all public documents as his widow. The elder Prosper Foy prospered in business and fought with distinction at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Of Foy and Aubry's children, four daughters and Florville lived to adulthood.
Florville studied with a private tutor, and all the children were well educated, judging by their copybooks and letters. In 1836 ...
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 ...
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 ...
Renée R. Hanson
sculptor, illustrator, ceramicist, and entrepreneur, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the first of three children born to the Reverend Hathaway and Mrs. Hathaway. Hathaway's mother died when he was only two years old, and his father and grandmother raised him and his two sisters, Fannie and Eva.
A trip with his father to a local museum inspired Hathaway to become an artist. Walking through the museum's galleries, which were filled with busts of famous white American heroes, Isaac noticed the absence of-many African Americans, such as Frederick Douglass. He asked his father why they were absent, and the elder Hathaway simply stated that there were no trained African American sculptors to sculpt prominent African American people. The young Hathaway determined to change this by becoming a trained artist.
Hathaway began his career as an artist at Chandler College in Lexington and continued it ...
Todd Steven Burroughs
A privately owned firm based in Chicago, Illinois, the Johnson Publishing Company was created, built, and run by John H. Johnson (1918–2005) and for much of the twentieth century was consistently listed as one of the top black-owned businesses in America. The success of Johnson's publishing empire was thanks in large part to the weekly Jet magazine and its big-brother monthly publication, Ebony, the two most popular black magazines in America. With Ebony (founded in 1945) and Jet (founded in 1951), Johnson created the black-oriented print advertising market and proved that commercial black magazines could be successful. By the early twenty-first century the company reported twenty-seven hundred full-time and part-time contracted employees, consultants, and associated employees in eleven nations on two continents.
The first office of Johnson Publishing Company was a corner of the second floor office of the black owned Supreme Liberty Life Insurance ...
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 ...
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 ...
crystal am nelson
photographer and businessman, was born in Florida. As a young man, he worked with his father as a stevedore while taking correspondence courses in photography. At the beginning of the twentieth century—the specific date is unknown—he married Wilhelmina Pearl Williams, a native of South Carolina, who helped Roberts open the Gem Studio in Fernandina, Florida. The two had four children during their time in Florida: Gerald Ermerson, Beverly Nash, Cornelius C., and Wilhelmina. In 1920, when Wilhelmina's health began to suffer from Florida's humidity, the couple moved to her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, where their fifth child, Miriam was born They purchased a small house equipped with electricity and plumbing both luxuries for southerners at the time In the backyard were a barn and a smaller house the latter of which the family used as storage space for Roberts s photographic equipment ...
Donna M. Wells
photographer and entrepreneur, was born in the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., the son of Addison Scurlock, a successful photographer and the proprietor of Scurlock Studios, and Mamie Estelle Fearing, the receptionist and business manager of Scurlock Studios. George and his three siblings grew up in Washington, not far from their father's studio, which was founded in 1911. As young men, George and his brother Robert Scurlock apprenticed with their father and developed into accomplished photographers, later taking over the family business, which they operated for more than four decades. Scurlock Studios became one of the nation's most successful black businesses. George attended Garrison Elementary and Garnett-Patterson Junior High School. All of the Scurlock children attended Dunbar High School, considered one of the top black schools in the country. Robert graduated in 1933, and Addison, who was named for his father, graduated in 1932 having ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
Lisa E. Rivo
photographer and entrepreneur, was born in Lenox, Massachusetts, the second of six children of John VanDerZee and Susan Elizabeth Egberts. Part of a working-class African American community that provided services to wealthy summer residents, the VanDerZees (sometimes written Van Der Zee or Van DerZee) and their large extended family operated a laundry and bakery and worked at local luxury hotels. James played the violin and piano and enjoyed a bucolic childhood riding bicycles, swimming, skiing, and ice fishing with his siblings and cousins. He received his first camera from a mail-order catalogue just before his fourteenth birthday and taught himself how to take and develop photographs using his family as subjects. He left school that same year and began work as a hotel waiter. In 1905 he and his brother Walter moved to New York City.
James was working as an elevator operator when he met a seamstress ...