Arna Wendell Bontemps

Arna Wendell Bontemp

Arna Wendell Bontemp

Arna Wendell Bontemps was an important writer in the Harlem Renaissance. He was born on October 13, 1902 in Alexandria, Louisiana. The family home is now the Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center.

From the age of three, Arna lived with his family in the Watts section of Los Angeles. His family moved to Los Angeles just three days before the San Francisco earthquake! His was a loving family. His parents always encouraged him in his education. He attended public schools and graduated in 1916 at the age of 17 from Pacific Union College [U.C.L.A.], having completed his degree in three years.  Continue reading

Elmer Simms Campbell

Elmer Simms Campbell

Elmer Simms Campbell

Elmer Simms Campbell  (b. Jan. 2, 1906, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.–d. Jan. 27, 1971, White Plains, N.Y.), first black American cartoonist to publish his work in general-circulation magazines on a regular basis.

Campbell won a nationwide contest in cartooning while still attending high school. He later studied at the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago. He then worked as a railroad dining-car waiter, amusing himself by drawing caricatures of the passengers, one of whom liked his work and gave him a job in a commercial-art studio in St. Louis.  Continue reading

James Amos Porter

James Amos Porter

James Amos Porter

was born in Baltimore in 1903. At an early age, he learned to draw and loved pictures. In school, Porter worked hard to perfect his artistic skills. By the time he reached high school, people recognized that he would become an artist and a scholar.

After high school, Porter attended Howard University in Washington D.C. There he received his bachelor’s degree in art. In 1927, Porter was appointed as an assistant professor at Howard. Later, he studied with Dimitri Ramanowsky in New York at the Art Students’ League and at the Sorbonne in Paris. His studies came to an end after Porter received a master’s degree in art from New York University in 1936.  Continue reading

Henry Blair

The drawing of the Seed-Planter by Blair used on the patent application in 1836.

The drawing of the Seed-Planter by Blair used on the patent application in 1836.

Henry Blair, one of the earliest black inventors to receive a patent, was born in Montgomery County, Md. around 1807. Little is known about his personal life. Blair is assumed to have been free since slaves could not legally obtain patents. He received two patents, one in 1834 for his seed planter and another in 1836 for a cotton planter. For many years he was thought to be the first black American to receive a U.S. patent. Later,it was recognized that Thomas L. Jennings received his patent in 1821 for the invention of the dry cleaning process. Many people are unaware of this and still cite Henry Blair as the first black patent holder.  Continue reading

Shirley Graham

Shirley Graham DuBois and  her Husband, W.E.B. DuBois

Shirley Graham DuBois and her Husband, W.E.B. DuBois

was born November 11, 1896 in Indianapolis, Indiana on a farm which had been part of the underground railroad and had served as a stopping point for runaway slaves on their way to Canada. It belonged to her grandfather, a former slave who had been freed prior to the Civil War.

Over the years she studied at the Sorbonne, Oberlin, and attended Yale on a Rosenwald Fellowship in Creative Writing. She received both her bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in music from Oberlin. After receiving her MA degree, she was appointed Head of the Fine Arts Department at Tennessee State College.  Continue reading

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