The Arts

Hallie Quinn Brown

Hallie Quinn Brown

Hallie Quinn Brown was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1845, the daughter of two former slaves. Her father, Thomas Arthur Brown, became known as “Mr. Brown, the walking encyclopedia.” Brown’s mother, Frances Jane Scroggins, was also well educated; she was an unofficial advisor and counselor to the students of Wilberforce school, a private, coed, liberal arts college. Both Thomas and Frances were actively involved with the Underground Railroad. Her parents’ commitment to the cause would later influence the organizations Brown founded and participated in.

Brown’s family moved from Pittsburgh to Canada in 1864 and then to Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1870. In Ohio, the author experienced her first all black school at Wilberforce University. Brown graduated in 1873 with a Bachelor of Science degree. After graduation, she began teaching on the Senora Plantation in Mississippi and went on to teach on several plantations during her life.  Continue reading

Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner

The son of a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Henry Ossawa Tanner was raised in an affluent, well educated African-American family. Although reluctant at first, Tanner’s parents eventually responded to their son’s unflagging desire to pursue an artistic career and encouraged his ambitions. In 1879, Tanner enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he joined Thomas Eakins’s coterie.

Tanner moved to Atlanta in 1889 in an unsuccessful attempt to support himself as an artist and instructor among prosperous middle class African-Americans. Bishop and Mrs. Joseph C. Hartzell arranged for Tanner’s first solo exhibition, the proceeds from which enabled the struggling artist to move to Paris in 1891. Illness brought him back to the United States in 1893, and it was at this point in his career that Tanner turned his attention to genre subjects of his own race.  Continue reading

Scott Joplin

(b. Nov. 24, 1868, Bowie county, Texas, U.S.–d. April 1, 1917, New York, N.Y.), American black composer and pianist known as the “king of ragtime” at the turn of the 20th century.

Studying piano with teachers near his childhood home, Joplin traveled through the Midwest from the mid-1880s, performing at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Settling in Sedalia, Mo., in 1895, he studied music at the George R. Smith College for Negroes and hoped for a career as a concert pianist and classical composer. His first published songs brought him fame, and in 1900 he moved to St. Louis to work more closely with the music publisher John Stark.  Continue reading

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