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Kevin D. Roberts

author of an autobiographical slave narrative, was born near Winchester, Virginia, to slave parents whose names are now unknown. Adams and his family were owned by George F. Calomese, a member of a prominent planter family. John Quincy Adams and his twin brother were one of four pairs of twins born to their mother, who had twenty-five children.

What we know of Adams's life comes from his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of John Quincy Adams (1872), which briefly traces Adams's life as a slave and as a freeman. Written in simple, plain language, the Narrative captures the tragedy of slavery in powerful ways. The most poignant events in Adams's early life involve the sale of family members and friends. In 1857 the sale of his twin brother Aaron and his sister Sallie left Adams very sad and heart broken Adams 28 Though crushed by the ...

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Rebecca Martin Nagy

Ethiopian artist, was born in Ankober in Shewa Province, Ethiopia. As a young student Afewerk excelled in mathematics and draftsmanship. Recognizing these talents, the government of Emperor Haile Selassie provided a scholarship in 1947 for Afewerk to study mining engineering in England. Showing great promise as a visual artist, Afewerk soon received the emperor’s permission to transfer to London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts. Subsequently, he attended the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. While studying there, he made several trips to the European continent to see and experience works of art firsthand.

Afewerk’s first solo exhibition of paintings in Addis Ababa, held at Municipality Hall in 1954 was not universally well received In particular an abstract interpretation of the Crucifixion inspired by European modernism now in the National Museum of Ethiopia was the subject of debate and controversy in a city with a centuries old ...

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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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Rebecca Martin Nagy

Ethiopian artist, was born in the Gondar Administrative Region of Ethiopia in 1905. Another form of his name is Agegnehu Engeda. Although relatively little is known about his life and work, Agegnehu’s role as a pioneer among twentieth-century Ethiopian painters is noteworthy. At a time when the only opportunity for higher learning in Ethiopia was in church schools and the only training available to aspiring painters was through apprenticeship to church artists, the young Agegnehu Engida was sent to Paris to study painting at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1926 to 1933. According to Ladislas Farago, who interviewed Agegnehu in his home in Addis Ababa soon after the artist’s return from France, Agegnehu’s artistic abilities had been recognized by Haile Selassie, who arranged for him to study abroad. In 1926 Ras Tafari Mekonnen the future Emperor Haile Selassie was regent to Empress Zawditu and heir apparent to ...

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Robert Fay

Alston was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a teenager, he served as the art editor for his high school's annual magazine. Alston earned both his undergraduate and M.A. degrees from Columbia University in New York City. He gained popular recognition for his cover illustrations for the periodicals The New Yorker and Collier's. In the 1930s Alston taught at the Harlem Art Workshop, where he was a proponent of muralism as a black art form, and from 1935 to 1936 Alston directed the Harlem Hospital murals for the Federal Arts Project. In 1950 he became the first African American teacher at the Art Students League in New York. His best-known works are the paintings Family and Walking, which are noted for their figurative content, sculptural form, and brilliant color, and which portray the experiences of African American families in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Mary Anne Boelcskevy

artist and teacher, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the youngest of five children of the prominent Episcopalian minister Primus Priss Alston and his second wife, Anna (Miller) Alston. Nicknamed “Spinky” by his father, Charles showed his artistic bent as a child by sculpting animals out of the red clay around his home. His father died suddenly when Charles was just three. In 1913 his mother married a former classmate, Harry Pierce Bearden (uncle of Romare Bearden), and the family moved to New York City. Charles's stepfather worked at the Bretton Hotel as the supervisor of elevator operators and newsstand personnel, and over the years the family lived in comfortable brownstones in better neighborhoods.

Alston attended DeWitt Clinton High School, where he was art editor of the student newspaper the Magpie during the week and he studied at the National Academy of Art on Saturdays He turned ...

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Sharon Pruitt

artist, art historian, curator, critic, and educator, was born Lynda Faye Peek in Atlanta, Georgia. Amaki, who legally changed her name in 1978, is the fourth of six surviving daughters of Mary Lee Hill, a homemaker, gardener, and quilter, and Norman Vance Peek, a landscape designer and gardener during the summer, and a cake and candy caterer during the winter. Early in her life and throughout her artistic career Amaki was influenced by her parents' penchant for recycling materials into creative forms.

Amaki's parents supported and encouraged her early artistic pursuits. Her mother enthusiastically showed Amaki's drawings to family friends and members of the community. Aware of Amaki's interest, the Reverend William Holmes Borders, a friend of the family and pastor of the Wheat Street Baptist Church where the Peek family worshipped, introduced ten-year-old Amaki to Hale Aspacio Woodruff a ...

Article

Leora Maltz Leca

painter and printmaker, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to a family with a long line of educated and powerful women. Her grandmother, Emma, was a college-educated university professor in the 1890s, and her mother, India, was a similarly educated partner in the family drugstore with her father, Miles. Her paternal lineage included a grandfather who was the first black pharmacist in the state of Georgia. The family's social circle included such figures as Booker T. Washington and Zora Neale Hurston. Along with her older brother, Larry, Amos attended schools in Atlanta's then-segregated public school system—first E. R. Carter Elementary and then Booker T. Washington High School.

Amos remembered wishing to be an artist from an early age and eventually she enrolled in Ohio s Antioch College with a firm interest in the visual arts She earned a BA from Antioch in Fine Arts as well as an etching ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

writer, was born in Plainview, Georgia, in Morgan County, the fourth of ten children of George Cleveland Andrews, a sharecropper and self‐taught folk artist, and Viola (Perryman) Andrews, also a sharecropper and, later, a newspaper columnist and the author of published short stories and an unpublished autobiography. Raymond's older brother, Benny Andrews, would become an internationally known painter and printmaker. Raymond Andrews's paternal grandmother, Jessie Rose Lee Wildcat Tennessee, was the daughter of an African American mother and a Native American father. Although she married Eddie Andrews, an African American who died in 1917, Raymond Andrews's paternal grandfather was James Orr, a plantation owner's son.

In 1935 Andrews and his family moved to a small house near his grandmother's home on land owned by Orr. Then in 1943 the Andrews family moved to the nearby Barnett Farm to work as sharecroppers ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

graphic artist, painter, printmaker, and political activist, was born in Chicago in 1931. An only child, he attended Chicago public schools, moving briefly to Washington, D.C., to study at Howard University with Alain Leroy Locke, Sterling Allen Brown, and James Amos Porter. After one year he then enrolled at Alabama State College (later Alabama State University) to study under the sculptor, painter, and printmaker Hayward Louis Oubre, and he received a bachelor of arts degree. Bailey continued study at the University of Southern California (USC) as a student of Charles White and the Hungarian-born Francis de Erdely. He earned the bachelor of fine arts degree in 1958 and the master of fine arts degree in 1960. At USC he worked as a graduate assistant for two years, introducing the students Mel Edwards and Calvin Burnett to the work ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Oberlin, Ohio, one of five children (two boys and three girls) of James and Margaret Barnes. James, from North Carolina, was a chef at Oberlin College, and Margaret, from Kentucky, ran a family laundry. Soon after they married, Barnes's parents settled in Oberlin to raise their family because of the community's liberal atmosphere. They were aware of the role the town had played as a way station on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves in the nineteenth century. Barnes received the bulk of his education in Oberlin. He graduated from high school there in 1932 and was elected to the National Honor Society. In 1936 he graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor s degree in Physical Education He was an outstanding athlete who played end on the college s football team and starred on the track team He established a ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

painter, printmaker, and collage artist. Romare Howard Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 12 September 1911, to Richard Howard and Bessye Bearden. Although he only spent two years in North Carolina, his grandparents conveyed a sense of history and connection to the South, a connection that was reflected in his work throughout his career. Most of his childhood and adult life were spent in New York. He moved to New York in 1914, and then to Harlem in 1920. His mother, Bessye, was elected to the New York City school board in 1922 education was of paramount importance in his family Bearden had an expansive diverse career and is considered one of the finest American artists of the twentieth century He had an interest in political social and cultural issues including the visual arts music and literature He was particularly ...

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Paul Von Blum

artist and businesswoman, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to George A. Beasley and Annette P. Beasley, both of whom worked at a local country club. Like many artists, she revealed considerable talent in childhood, excelling in school art classes and enjoying parental support for her creativity. She graduated from John Adams High School in Cleveland in 1961, and began her formal training at Ohio University, where she earned a BFA in Visual Arts in 1965. After graduation, she started teaching art at Cleveland's Glenville High School; she held this position from 1965 to 1969. During that time, she had a brief marriage in 1968 to Louis Evans, about whom little is known. They divorced in 1969.

In 1969 she moved to Los Angeles After a year as a layout artist for Sage Publications a leading publisher of social science books and journals ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on an Indian reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Gwendolyn's father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. When her parents divorced, her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with Gwendolyn's stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York.

At Brooklyn's Girls' High (1918–1921) Bennett participated in the drama and literary societies—the first African American to do so—and won first place in an art contest. She attended fine arts classes at Columbia University (1921) and the Pratt Institute, from which she graduated in 1924 While she was still an undergraduate her poems Nocturne and Heritage were published in ...

Article

Sandra Y. Govan

Although she never collected her published poetry into a volume nor produced a collection of short stories, Gwendolyn Bennett was recognized as a versatile artist and significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Torn between her ambition to work as a graphic artist and her desire to become a proficient writer using the medium of either poetry or prose, Bennett maintained the profile of an arts activist in New York City's African American arts community for over twenty years. However, the five-year period spanning 1923 to 1928 proved to be the most productive for her as a creative writer. It was within this brief span that James Weldon Johnson recognized Bennett as a lyric poet of some power.

Born in Giddings, Texas, Bennett led a nomadic childhood before her father, Joshua Robbin Bennett finally settled his family into comfortable surroundings in Brooklyn New York Bennett completed her secondary education at ...

Article

Paulette Smith

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wilson Bigaud was introduced to so-called naive painting by Hector Hyppolite, one of Haiti's most famous artists. Deep melancholy and depression plagued Bigaud's exceptional but tragically short career. His famous canvas Paradis terrestre, recognized as one of the purest masterpieces of Haitian art, has single-handedly exported the magic of his vision of a black Adam to a broad international audience.

Bigaud's artistic talent was proclaimed to equal Brueghel's when he produced his Noces de Cana (Miracle of Cana, 1951), the famous 528-square-foot fresco decorating the Episcopal Cathedral of Port-au-Prince. Bigaud's impressive self-portrait (1958) best reveals the precision of his brushwork and the artist's desire for perfect control of his surroundings. In the painting he depicts himself in the apparel of the arrivé a Haitian term meaning the one who made it wearing a distinguished panama hat and dressed ...

Article

Born in Gastonia, North Carolina, John Biggers was one of seven children. His father, Paul Biggers, was a school principal, preacher, and basket maker. Biggers studied at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, where he resolved to become an artist. Biggers served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946, and in 1944 painted a mural for the U.S. Naval Training School at Hampton. He subsequently attended Pennsylvania State University, where he earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. Biggers founded and chaired the art department at Texas Southern University, where he implemented progressive art programs that involved local communities.

Biggers is known for his murals a form he began to master while at Hampton Many of his early works no longer exist because they were painted directly on buildings that were later destroyed or altered His works demonstrate his interest in the concrete spiritual ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

artist. Originally from Gastonia, North Carolina, Biggers grew up in the segregated South, the youngest of seven children. His childhood was marred by tragedy, with the deaths of his sister and his father, both from diabetes. John attempted to help his mother in any way he could, often helping with the laundry she took in to support the family. These images eventually appeared in his work.

With the sole responsibility of raising her large family Biggers s mother decided to send the two youngest boys to Lincoln Academy This was an important development in John s interest in African culture The principal of the school had served as a missionary in West Africa and was determined to instill a respect and an understanding of African culture in his students Biggers had the unusual experience of learning in detail about African culture an interest that grew as he developed as ...

Article

Robyn McGee

cartoonist and creator of the “Curtis” comic strip, was born in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to Henry Billingsley and Laura Dunn Billingsley. The youngest of three children, Billingsley credits his sister Maxine and, particularly, his older brother Richard with inspiring many of the plots and themes of the popular comic strip. Billingsley began drawing at age eight as a way of competing with his brother's renderings of portraits, still lives and landscapes. Ray remembers that Richard received much praise from adults for his creations. When Ray tried to draw like his brother, he did not garner the same kind of favorable response, so he decided to switch to cartooning instead.

After the Billingsley family moved to Harlem, twelve‐year old Ray was discovered by an editor of Kids magazine while drawing during a class visit to the Presbyterian Hospital in New York. His first assignment at Kids was to ...

Article

Aaron Myers

The black mural movement developed out of the 1960s Black Arts Movement and embraced the political creed of the Black Aesthetic. The founding work of the Black Mural Movement, Wall of Respect (1967), by William Walker and other artists based in Chicago, Illinois, drew on a long-standing tradition of African American mural painting. In the 1930s the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration helped such African American artists as Aaron Douglas, Charles White, and Hale Woodruff complete murals that documented African American history. These monumental works, done in a style best described as social realism, were executed on the interior walls of public buildings.

Students and professors continued to create murals with black themes throughout the 1940s and 1950s. From the 1930s through the Black Mural Movement, African American muralists drew inspiration from the work of Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera ...