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Rita Kohn

designer, businesswoman, and civic leader, was born Alpha Coles in Lynchburg, Virginia, the youngest of eight children of Alphonso Carroll Coles and Minnie Pugh Coles. Growing up, Blackburn attended a segregated school system, and went on to win a scholarship to Howard University, from which she graduated with honors, attaining a bachelor of arts in Design and a master of fine arts in painting and Art History. In 1964 she moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband, Walter Scott Blackburn, who had completed his degree in architecture at Howard. She commenced work as a freelance designer of clothing and interiors.

Blackburn's petite figure and radiant good looks created opportunities for her to model, and she accepted a steady job at the prestigious L. S. Ayres & Company in downtown Indianapolis. Concurrently, she hosted a half‐hour daily talk show from 1972 to 1978, Indy Today on WISH ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

draftsman, lithographer, painter, and entrepreneur, was born free in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Brown and Wilhelmina (maiden name unknown). Nothing is known about Brown's family or childhood. It appears that in the mid-1850s, Brown moved to San Francisco on the heels of the gold rush. While black fur traders, including Edward Rose and Jim Beckwourth, had already explored the West by the mid-1850s, few African Americans were living in California before this time. By 1860, though, close to five thousand blacks had moved to California, including Mary Ellen Pleasant and Edmond Wysinger. Just what precipitated Brown's decision to move to San Francisco is unknown, but records show that by 1861 he was employed as a draftsman for the commercial lithography firm of Kuchel and Dressel While his skill is evidenced by the quality work he produced for the firm Brown must also have been considered a ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston

Albert Cassell was born in Towson, near Baltimore, Maryland, the third child of Albert Truman and Charlotte Cassell. He finished his elementary and high school education in Baltimore and in 1919 received a B.A. degree in architecture from Cornell University, where he sang in churches to help pay his expenses. His studies were interrupted by service as a second lieutenant, training officers in heavy field artillery in the United States and France during World War I (1914–1918).

Article

Donna M. Wells

photographer, journalist, and diplomat, was born on the campus of Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University), in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Oglethorpe Laboratory Elementary School, a practice school on the campus. Davis's professional career began in high school and continued until his retirement in 1985. He was first introduced to photography by William (Bill) Brown, an instructor at the Atlanta University Laboratory High School where Davis was a student. Throughout high school and later as a student at Morehouse, Davis supported himself through photography assignments from local newspapers and public relations firms.

Davis's college education was suspended in 1944 when he joined the armed forces during World War II and fought with the Ninety-second Infantry Division in Italy. After his tour, Griffith returned to Atlanta in 1946 and continued his college studies. He befriended writer and professor Langston Hughes and civil rights activist and ...

Article

Frank Martin

artist, writer, illustrator and educator, was born Elton Clay Fax, the son of Mark Oakland and Willie Estele Fax in Baltimore, Maryland. Fax initially matriculated at the historically black institution Claflin University, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, but completed his studies and received a BFA at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, in 1931. On 12 March 1929, Fax married the former Grace Elizabeth Turner, and their union produced three children.

In 1934 Fax painted a well-received mural, commissioned by the Public Works of Art Projects (PWAP) at Baltimore's Dunbar High School, depicting the incorporation of southern, black agrarians into the urban, industrial north. Fax's representation of the Great Migration and a pluralistic American workforce was an ideal example of the American Social-Realist art that was supported by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal projects Social Realism was a popular style in the 1930s ...

Article

John Hanson Mitchell

photographer and naturalist, was born in Natural Bridge, Virginia. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. In 1881, after attending primary schools in Lexington, Virginia, Gilbert was taken by his family to Lynchburg, Virginia, to complete his education. In 1886 he followed his brother William north to Boston, where he found employment as a porter on the Portland Boston steamship line. He would work various odd jobs until 1896, when psychologist James Chadbourne hired him to help with laboratory rats. Gilbert, as he was generally known in the Boston white community, also took a temporary job setting up a bird museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the renowned nineteenth-century ornithologist William Brewster. Brewster subsequently hired Gilbert as a full-time manservant, field assistant, factotum, and, as some of the early private journal records state, “friend,” to the well-respected Brewster.

Under Brewster s tutelage Gilbert learned how to develop ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and clubwoman, was born Cora Alice McCarroll in Greenville, Mississippi, the youngest of three children of a slave woman whose surname was Warren and an Ohio born white overseer named McCarroll In the early nineteenth century Gillam s mother and her siblings who were part Cherokee were taken from their mother s home in North Carolina and sold into slavery in Mississippi Interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s Gillam recalled that her maternal grandmother left North Carolina and tracked her children to Greenville where she remained Gillam never met her father who died shortly before she was born His early death also denied her the opportunity of the northern education her siblings had enjoyed her brother Tom in Cincinnati and her sister at Oberlin College McCarroll had set aside funds for Cora s education but her mother s second husband a slave named Lee ...

Article

Verity J. Harding

gunsmith and engraver, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the eldest son of Allen Jones, a slave and a blacksmith, and Temperance Jones, a slave. He was one of eight children, a daughter and seven sons, born into a long line of slavery. His paternal grandfather, Charles Jones, was born in Africa around 1770 and brought to America to be sold into slavery some years later. Although born a slave, Gunsmith Jones was freed in 1829 when his father purchased liberty for his entire family Allen Jones was a skilled blacksmith who labored intensely for himself and his family while simultaneously performing his slave duties to earn the vast sum of money necessary to buy his family s freedom After saving the extraordinary amount of $2 000 he was cheated out of the money by his master and left with nothing With admirable determination he ...

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Ian Jones

African‐American scientist and inventor who worked in Britain. Lewis Latimer's parents were Rebecca and George Latimer, fugitive slaves from Virginia who gained their liberty in the free state of Massachusetts, where Lewis was born. Lewis served in the American Civil War (1861–5), after which he worked as an office boy in a patent law firm. His employers soon recognized his talent for drawing and made him head draughtsman. He married Mary Wilson (1848–1937) in 1873 and wrote a poem for his wedding, which he later published in his collection Poems of Love and Life.

When he was 25, Lewis invented an improved toilet for railway carriages, and in 1876Alexander Graham Bell hired him to produce the drawings he needed to patent the telephone. Lewis was later headhunted by the US Electric Lighting Company, and in 1882 was awarded a patent for a ...

Article

Dox Thrash was born in Griffin, Georgia. After studying for several years at the Art Institute of Chicago, Thrash settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Once there he painted signs and worked on the Federal Arts Project (FAP) to earn a living. Working with the FAP, in the Graphic Division, he helped invent a new lithographic process, called the carborundum print-process. This created prints with more expressive tones and variation. His carbographs explored the portraits of African Americans, landscapes, and scenes of slum life. My Neighbor (1937) and the landscape Deserted Cabin (1939) are examples of Thrash's carbographs. In the late 1930s and through the 1940s Thrash's work was shown in many prominent places, including a 1942 solo exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

See also Artists, African American.