Black History is Business History

I will never forget the first time I heard an instructor tell the class that the first person to successful sale products door to door was some Caucasian man in the 1950s. He obviously had never heard of Sarah Breedlove or Annie Malone, women who became millionaires by selling their products door to door. They started as far back as 1890. Breedlove became Madam CJ Walker who sold haircare and grooming products.

Artist of the Week

Selma Hortense Burke was an American sculptor and a member of the Harlem Renaissance movement. Burke is best known for a bas relief portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that may have inspired the profile found on the obverse of the dime.

Selma Burke was born on December 31, 1900, in MooresvilleNorth Carolina, the seventh of 10 children of Reverend Neil and Mary Elizabeth Colfield Burke.[6][7] Her father was an AME Church Minister who worked on the railroads for additional income. As a child, she attended a one-room segregated schoolhouse, and often played with the riverbed clay found near her home.[3][8] She would later describe the feeling of squeezing the clay through her fingers as a first encounter with sculpture, saying “It was there in 1907 that I discovered me.”[9] Burke’s interest in sculpture was encouraged by her maternal grandmother, a painter, although her mother thought she should pursue a more financially stable career.[10]

Selma Burke died at the age of 94 on August 29, 1995 in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where she had lived since the 1950s.

Artist of the Week

This was one of the first pieces of Kerry James Marshall that I saw live in a museum. I loved it and could not wait to show it to anyone who would come with me. Africa Restored (Cheryl as Cleopatra) (2003) There are a million little stories in buttons and memorabilia across this work. They each tell a story of a history of a people.

Kerry James Marshall describes Africa Restored (Cheryl as Cleopatra) as “the shape of Africa reconfigured as a cubist sculpture.” Reversing art-historical narratives of modernist painting’s appropriation of African sculpture, it offers a complex meditation on African ancestry and black aesthetics. Africa Restored formally references the nkisi nkondi, or power figures, of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These sculptures were crafted as basic armatures into which accretions of metals, mirrors, and nails were driven to activate their force. (Art Institute of Chicago)

Artist of the Week

“While the tonal values of Marshall’s figures are universal, their impressions are extremely varied— Marshall’s figures assume all facets of black life. Marshall’s 2012 painting, School of Beauty, School of Culture portrays a scene inspired by the cosmetology school “Your School of Beauty Culture” located in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side. The world defined in Marshall’s painting designates a space in which black women determine their own images of ideal beauty. With a nod to Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Ambassadors, Marshall uses the anamorphic Sleeping Beauty head to register Euro-centric standards of beauty, populated in the academy for centuries, as a distorted reality. “