Black History Month

Jacob Lawrence is renowned for his narrative painting series that chronicles the experiences of African Americans, which he created during a career of more than six decades. Using geometric shapes and bold colors on flattened picture planes to express his emotions, he fleshed out the lives of Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and African Americans migrating north from the rural south during and after slavery. Lawrence was 12 in 1929 when his family settled in Harlem, New York, at a time when African American intellectual and artistic life was flourishing there.

Kara Walker’s art has been exhibited across the globe. Her 1994 room-sized mural, titled Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart, brought her into the art world spotlight. The work consists of black cut-out silhouettes and depicts narratives of slavery and racism in the history of the south.

Black History Month

Charles White, the meticulous draftsman used his skill to render human emotion and endurance in the face of such obstacles as discrimination. His works from the 1950s, the decade when the civil rights struggle exploded in the United States, show the cost of such perseverance in images of black men and women fighting for social justice.

Artist and author Faith Ringgold was inspired by the fabrics used by her mother when she was a child. She has written children’s books, taught visual art, and produced narrative works about gender and race. Notably, Ringgold helped form an activist committee in the 1970s protesting the inequal presence of female artists at the Whitney Biennial. Her mosaics are present in subway stations, and her sculptures and quilts, such as the 1985 Flag Story Quilt, are part of permanent collections in New York City.

Black History Month

Painted 11 years after Henry Ossawa Tanner first settled in Paris in 1891, this rapidly executed plein-air oil sketch is one of the artist’s rare depictions of the French capital. His vantage point is from the right bank of the Seine looking west toward the towers of the Palais du Trocadéro, the exhibition hall built for the 1878 World’s Fair. A diffuse, hazy light fills the scene, which is free of human activity save for a solitary figure dressed in black at the lower right. With short, loose brushstrokes laden with paint, Tanner captured the scattered reflections of light across both river and sky. (from National Gallery of Art)

May Flowers, a compelling photograph of three young African American girls, succinctly addresses the issues of race, class, and gender that the American artist Carrie Mae Weems has explored for decades. Related to a video Weems made in 2002 titled May Days Long Forgotten, the photograph evokes both spring’s renewal and May Day, the international workers’ holiday. Befitting these themes, May Flowers depicts girls from working-class families in Syracuse, New York, wearing floral-print dresses. Its tondo format, truncated foreground space, and tight focus on the figures harks back to Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and child, while its subject—adolescent girls with flowers in their hair, lounging on the grass—recalls both 19th-century paintings and photographs, such as those by Édouard Manet and Julia Margaret Cameron. Weems intensified this historical character by printing the photograph in sepia tones and placing it in a circular frame like those gracing the walls of 19th-century parlors. (from National Gallery of Art)

Black History Month

This week will feature artists

Aaron Douglass was born in 1899 in Topeka, Kansas . He was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance. In 1936, Douglas was commissioned to create a series of murals for the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. Installed in the elegant entrance lobby of the Hall of Negro Life, his four completed paintings charted the journey of African Americans from slavery to the present. Considered a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural phenomenon that promoted African and African American culture as a source of pride and inspiration, Douglas was an inspiring choice for the project.(From National Gallery of Art and Wikipedia)

Sculptor Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller was born in Philadelphia and studied art in her hometown, as well as Paris, at the turn of the 20th century. During this period, more women were trained as artists than ever before in America, and she was commissioned several times to create dioramas for the US government. Fuller was an important catalyst in the Harlem Renaissance; her work Ethiopia Awakening served as a celebration of African independence and aimed to shatter associations with slavery. (From

Black History Month

Alice Walker Beauty In Truth Trailer

Alice Walker was born Georgia in 1944 into a large family which helped define her character and the way she saw the world. She graduated from Sarah Laurence College in 1965, but first she attended Spelman where she met Martin Luther King Jr which influenced her to work as an activist in the South.

Author of several novels, short stories and poetry, Walker won a Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple which was also made into a motion picture starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. She won many other awards and honors, and her work focus’ on the lives of African American people and their struggles in a society that is not always for them.

Black History Month

Born Frederick August Kittel Jr. in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in 1945. The African American playwright won Pulitzers for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990) which were stories that depicted celebrate the history and poetry of African Americans.

August Wilson’s father did not live with the family, so he took his mother’s maiden name in honor of her.  Living in predominantly white communities, Wilson dropped out of school and spent most of his time at the library.

As he tried to further his career as a writer, he worked as a cook, porter, a gardener and a dishwasher. He later founded the Black Horizon Theater in Pittsburgh with his friend.  He began to write and produce more of his plays.  He wrote more than 16 plays. He won a Tony for Fences and several awards and honors. He died in 2005 of liver cancer.

Black History Month

Her pen name was J California Cooper, but Joan Cooper wrote more than 17 plays, novels and short stories. Born in Berkeley, California in 1931, she tried to be careful not to give out too much personal information.

She was the Black Playwright of the Year which led to other amazing things. Alice Walker advised her to try her hand at writing books and it turned out to be a good thing. Cooper won American Book Award for Homemade Love, James Baldwin Writing Award, and the Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association.

Her short story Funny Valentines was made into a television movie starring Alfre Woodard and Loretta Devine.

“I’m a Christian” Cooper told a newspaper, “That’s all I am. If it came down to Christianity and writing, I’d let the writing go. God is bigger than a book,” Cooper said in the Washington Post in 2000.

She died at the age of 82 in 2014.

Black History Month

Born in the Senegal/Gambia region of West Africa, Phyllis Wheatley was probably about seven years old when she was capture by slavers. Because she was small and thought to be ill, she was sold to a tailor and his family.

The Wheatley family of Boston taught their young slave how to read and write, once they saw she had a desire to learn. She began writing poetry, which they encouraged.

Her first book of poetry was published in 1773, when she and one of her slave owners went to London to promote her work. She was introduced to prominent people, one of which took an interest in her work and helped her publish it. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral brought fame to her in the UK and the USA.

The Wheatley’s emancipated Phyllis after her book was published. She later married John Peters, a free African American man. They struggle with poverty and giving birth to a child. She died December 5, 1784 at the age of 31.

Black History Month

James Baldwin Video

James Baldwin was an American and activist born in 1924 and educated in Harlem. Unhappy with segregation and the overall treatment of African Americans, Baldwin moved to Paris France at the age of 24.

His work includes Go Tell It On The Mountain, The Amen Corner, If Beale Street Could Talks and many more.

Black History Month

This Week is about movies. We will take a quick glance at what some amazing African American actors have done. Today meet Dorothy Dandridge.

Dorothy Dandridge was an entertainer and actress that starred on stage and screen in the late 1940s and 1950s. She performed at the Cotton Club at the age of 16 with her sisters as a trio. She starred in a series of low budget films in the early 1940s like Drums in the Congo and The Hit Parade of 1943.

Carmen Jones, a film based off the opera Carmen, made her a star and earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. It was the first time an African American had been nominated for a leading actor role. She was also one of the first actresses to play roles where there were interracial relationships.

She struggled for good acting parts, even going to Europe in hopes of landing better roles. She did not find much.

Her last important movie was Porgy and Bess (1959) with Sidney Poitier, Pearl Bailey and Sammy Davis, Jr. By this time, Dandridge had perfected the role of playing the bad black woman who refused to go right.

In 1965, Dandridge died of an overdose of anti depression pills.

This information is from Donald Bogle’s Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks.