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 ...
Amy Helene Kirschke
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 ...
Cheryl A. Alston
artist and activist, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the third of ten children of Betty Solomon Guyton and George Guyton, a construction worker. His mother reared the children on her own after George Guyton left the-family, when Tyree Guyton was nine years old. Guyton grew up on the east side of Detroit in an area called “Black Bottom,” one of the oldest African American communities in the city. He attended Northern High School, but he did not graduate and earned his GED at a later date.
Guyton began painting at the age of eight when his grandfather, Sam Mackey a housepainter at the time who later became a painter of fine art gave him the tool to create a paintbrush Because of his family s poverty Guyton felt all he had was his art He felt like he had no freedom and he realized early on that ...
Donna L. Halper
suffragist and political activist, was born in Danville, Virginia, in 1872 (some sources, notably U.S. Census records, say 1874) to Alfred and Barbara Dillard. Little is known of her early life, but she received training as a dressmaker and clothing designer, studying in London and Paris as well as in the United States.
On 28 September 1898 she married William Harvey Higgins, who had recently graduated from medical school in North Carolina. They lived in New York City while he completed some additional training at Long Island Medical College, and during that period Bertha operated her own dressmaking shop. By 1903William Higgins had opened a medical practice in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was one of the city's few black physicians. As was customary in those days, Higgins gave up her profession after the birth of the couple's first child, Prudence, in 1913 However ...
artist, teacher, and activist, was born in Aberdeen, Mississippi, the son of Cleveland Sykes, a handyman, and Anna Bell Clay. Growing up in Mississippi and in St. Louis, Missouri, Sykes and his eight siblings faced segregation and poverty. In the face of racism and hardship, his parents taught him to treat his home and his neighborhood with care and respect. In 1958 Sykes moved to San Diego, California, where he began painting in his spare time and where he met Erma Thornton. In 1961 he moved again, this time to Los Angeles, where two years later he and Erma were married.
Rozzell and Erma Sykes rented a small bungalow on the 4800 block of St Elmo Drive in Mid City Los Angeles The building was old and dilapidated but the Sykeses improved it practicing one of Rozzell s favorite sayings If you are ...
Timothy M. Broughton
grassroots organizer, architect, and minister, was born Jasper Jacob Thomas in Mobile County, Alabama, the youngest of three boys. Little is known about Thomas's mother; his father, whose name is not known, was a successful construction worker, a trade that quickly became one of Thomas's passions. Thomas married Mary Whisper in the early 1900s, and they had seven daughters. Thomas also had a son prior to this marriage, but there is no information about the details of this union.
Thomas traveled widely, visiting England and France. In Africa he learned about different architectural styles and cultural, social, and political organization. He admired and corresponded with Marcus Garvey, and in Mobile he publicly organized and supported black pride and self-sufficiency projects.
In 1948 Thomas was instrumental in both organizing and directing the strategy for defeating the Boswell Amendment the most racially discriminatory voting law passed in ...
J. Deborah Johnson Sterrett
painter and sculptor, was born in Gloster, Mississippi, the fourth of six children to Reverend James W. Washington, a cabinetmaker and an associate minister at the Gloster Baptist Church, and Lizzie, a homemaker. The birth year for Washington has been reported between 1909 and 1911 Washington made a futile effort to obtain a birth certificate and is reported to have rejected the notion of chronological age In the rural segregated town of Gloster Washington endured poverty unequal education and racially fueled terrorism that propelled him into a lifetime fight for social justice As a boy of six he saw his father under threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced to flee town in the trunk of a white friend s car Wasington never saw him again Without his father Washington forged a greater bond with his mother whom he credits for nurturing his natural talents in the ...
Jennifer Lynn Headley
artist, educator, and art historian specializing in African American photographic history, was born in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father, Thomas, was a police officer, and her mother, Ruth, was a hairdresser. Willis grew up with four sisters in a tight-knit and loving family. Her father, the family photographer, and his cousin (who name is not known) who owned a photographic studio, constantly took pictures of daily family life, including her mother's visual transformation of the neighborhood women as a hairdresser. Willis was mesmerized by images in the media and noted how blacks were portrayed as criminals or outsiders to the normal, suburban white family. Willis also noted that African Americans were omitted completely from history books except for references to slavery in the antebellum South. In Langston Hughes and Roy DeCarava's lyrical photo essay The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955 Willis discovered tender images of black ...