The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Jeff Donaldson

Share on Social Media

Information about Jeff Donaldson

Profile image of Jeff Donaldson

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Painter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
All Colors
Favorite Food:
Peas (Black-Eyed)
Favorite Time of Year:
All Seasons Except Winter
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
12/15/1932
Birth Location:
Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Painter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
All Colors
Favorite Food:
Peas (Black-Eyed)
Favorite Time of Year:
All Seasons Except Winter
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
12/15/1932
Birth Location:
Pine Bluff
See how Jeff Donaldson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Jeff Donaldson is an African American artist, art historian, and critic who has helped to articulate the philosophy and aesthetics of the Black Arts Movement in the United States. Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a black college town, in 1937, Donaldson was three when his older brother started drawing. This encouraged him to start drawing cartoons and comic books as well.

Donaldson's love of the arts continued, and upon enrolling in the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, he established the school's first arts major. Here, his lifelong interest in Afrocentric art was nurtured under the tutelage of John Howard, who mentored under the great Harlem Renaissance artist Hale Woodruff. After graduating with a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Donaldson obtained a Ph.D. in African and African American Art History from Northwestern University.

Through his involvement with the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), a group Donaldson helped form in Chicago, he organized the visual arts workshop that painted the Wall of Respect in 1967. The mural celebrated significant African Americans and set in motion a movement of outdoor murals painted in United States cities throughout the 1970s. Along with Wadsorth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and other African American artists, Donaldson founded AfriCobra (an acronym for African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) in Chicago in 1968. AfriCobra established its objectives in developing a new African American aesthetics as well as its commitment to the principles of social responsibility, involvement of artists in their local communities, and promotion of pride in Black self-identity.

As a painter, Donaldson has participated in over 200 group and solo exhibitions in galleries and museums in Africa, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. He has written numerous critical essays and has served as the Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard University. Donaldson also served as Vice President of the Board of Directors of The Barnes Foundation and was on the Board of Directors of the National Center for Afro-American Artists.

Jeff Donaldson passed away on February 29, 2004 at the age of 71.

See how Jeff Donaldson is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating for the Jeff Donaldson interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jeff Donaldson identifies five favorite things
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jeff Donaldson talks about his mother's background and the family's pride
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jeff Donaldson shares his mother's "mythology" about his father who died when he was four
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jeff Donaldson tells stories about his legendary grandfather, John Donaldson
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jeff Donaldson identifies his siblings and talks about his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jeff Donaldson shares childhood memories of Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jeff Donaldson discusses himself as a student
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jeff Donaldson recalls creating his own comic books as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jeff Donaldson discusses an influential teacher and the limits of black ambition
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jeff Donaldson recalls choosing to study art at Arkansas A. M. and N. and the creation of an art major there
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jeff Donaldson talks about schools in Pine Bluff and his drawing in high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jeff Donaldson relates the migration of his family while he remained in Arkansas for college
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jeff Donaldson describes his social life at Arkansas AM&N
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jeff Donaldson discusses segregated black schools teaching black history and pride
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jeff Donaldson discusses the influence of his mentor John Howard
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jeff Donaldson talks about his mother's activism
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jeff Donaldson talks about the black artists Hale Woodruff, Elizabeth Prophet and his mentor John Howard
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jeff Donaldson recalls studying philosophy with George G. M. James at Arkansas AM&N College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jeff Donaldson credits weaving instructor Ivy Foster with teaching him discipline
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jeff Donaldson shares observations from teaching in Mississippi in the late 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jeff Donaldson discusses his time in the Army in Virginia and France
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jeff Donaldson relates experiences with art, American expatriates and Africans while serving in France
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jeff Donaldson describes studying design at Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jeff Donaldson identifies Chicago artists in OBAC, a black artistic movement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jeff Donaldson discusses the Wall of Respect, FBI disruption of OBAC and the mural movement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jeff Donaldson discusses the forming of AFRICOBRA and FBI tactics to create conflict in black activist groups
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jeff Donaldson talks about AFRICOBRA
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jeff Donaldson talks about AFRICOBRA's meetings and preparation for FESTAC '77
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jeff Donaldson discusses the relevance of the critical art movements
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jeff Donaldson talks about the connection between the black arts and black power movements
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jeff Donaldson describes Chicago as a tough, energetic, creative place
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jeff Donaldson talks about getting the first PhD in African American art history
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jeff Donaldson discusses the current AFRICOBRA members
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jeff Donaldson argues for honoring slave insurrection leaders
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jeff Donaldson compares violent and nonviolent means in the struggle
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jeff Donaldson tells of encounters with government agents and intimidation
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jeff Donaldson discusses AFRICOBRA's relations with the U.S. State Department over FESTAC
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jeff Donaldson details his experiences at FESTAC in Nigeria
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jeff Donaldson discusses modern Nigeria and its rich history
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jeff Donaldson talks about his years at Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jeff Donaldson discusses the sense of oneness he found between Africa and the diaspora
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jeff Donaldson analyzes the closeness between American blacks and whites
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jeff Donaldson comments on American impatience
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Jeff Donaldson talks about his experiences as an instructor at Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Jeff Donaldson recalls actors who graduated from Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Jeff Donaldson comments on why he left Howard University after many years
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Jeff Donaldson talks about famous musicians at Howard University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Jeff Donaldson discusses his thoughts on Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jeff Donaldson discusses the evolution of his painting style
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jeff Donaldson talks about his artwork and other contemporary African American artists in Chicago
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Jeff Donaldson gives advice to the African American artist and comments how he sees himself in that role
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Jeff Donaldson discusses his hopes for the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Jeff Donaldson comments on his belief in reparations
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Jeff Donaldson talks about his legacy and how he would like to be remembered