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Carrie Mae Weems

Photographer and artist Carrie Mae Weems was born on April 20, 1953 in Portland, Oregon to Myrlie and Carrie Weems. Weems graduated from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia with her B.F.A. degree in 1981, and received her M.F.A. degree in photography from the University of California, San Diego in 1984. From 1984 to 1987, she participated in the graduate program in folklore at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1984, Weems completed her first collection of photographs, text, and spoken word entitled, Family Pictures and Stories. Her next photographic series, Ain't Jokin', was completed in 1988. She went on to produce American Icons in 1989, and Colored People and the Kitchen Table Series in 1990. Weems then created the Sea Islands Series (1991-92), Slave Coast and Africa Series (1993), From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995-96), Who What When Where (1998), Ritual & Revolution (1998), Jefferson Suite (1999), Hampton Project (2000), May Days Long Forgotten and Dreaming in Cuba (2002), The Louisiana Project (2003), Roaming (2006), and the Museum Series, which she began in 2006. She also produced the video projects Coming Up for Air (2004), Italian Dreams (2006), Constructing History: A Requiem to Mark the Moment (2008), and Afro-Chic (2009), among others.

Weems is represented by the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City, and has exhibited her art at the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, Illinois, and Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco, California. She has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions at major national and international museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Liverpool in England, and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum in Spain. She is represented in public and private collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Portland Art Museum. In addition, Weems has taught as an assistant professor or visiting professor at Hampshire College, Hunter College, California College of Arts and Crafts, Williams College, Harvard University, Syracuse University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Weems has received numerous awards, grants and fellowships including the Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize Fellowship; a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; a Smithsonian Fellowship; the Alpert Award for Visual Arts; the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award; and the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award. In 2012, she was presented with one of the first U.S. Department of State’s Medals of Arts in recognition for her commitment to the State Department’s Art in Embassies program. In 2013, Weems received the MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius” Grant, the Gordon Parks Foundation Award and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Carrie Mae Weems was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 10, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.175

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/10/2014

Last Name

Weems

Maker Category
Middle Name

Mae

Organizations
Schools

California Institute of the Arts

University of California, San Diego

University of California, Berkeley

Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women

Sabin K-8 School

Andrew Jackson High School

Boise-Eliot/Humboldt PK-8 School

City College of San Francisco

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Carrie

Birth City, State, Country

Portland

HM ID

WEE01

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Oregon

Favorite Vacation Destination

The World

Favorite Quote

You Prepare To Live, Every Day

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/20/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Popcorn

Short Description

Photographer and visual artist Carrie Mae Weems (1953 - ) was an award-winning folkloric artist represented in public and private collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago.

Employment

Hampshire College

Hunter College

California College of Arts and Crafts

Williams College

Harvard University

Syracuse University

University of Pennsylvania

Kelly Services, Inc.

Brockman Gallery

Favorite Color

Chartreuse, Yellow, Burnt Orange, Deep Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carrie Mae Weems' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carrie Mae Weems lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carrie Mae Weems describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carrie Mae Weems describes her parents' work as sharecroppers

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carrie Mae Weems remembers the death of her father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about her family's migration to Portland, Oregon

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carrie Mae Weems describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the racial demographics of her neighborhood in Portland, Oregon

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carrie Mae Weems remembers the events of the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls her early work ethic, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls her early work ethic, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the awakening of her individual consciousness

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about her home life

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carrie Mae Weems remembers her early aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls her introduction to theater

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carrie Mae Weems reflects upon her friendship with Catherine Jelski

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls her decision to attend the California Institute of the Arts

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carrie Mae Weems remembers the birth of her daughter

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carrie Mae Weems remembers moving to San Francisco, California

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls working for the Kelly Services, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about the development of her political consciousness

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls her introduction to photography

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about her photography training

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Carrie Mae Weems shares her philosophy of travel

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about her photography mentors

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls working for Anthony Barboza and Louis Draper

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls lessons from Anthony Barboza and Louis Draper

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the Kamoinge Workshop

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls organizing the 'Women in Photography' exhibition

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls her role as an art curator

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about her interest in art curating

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Carrie Mae Weems remembers photographing farmworkers in Central California

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about P.H. Polk, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about P.H. Polk, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls her documentary film about black photography

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the influence of Zora Neale Hurston on her work

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carrie Mae Weems recalls enrolling in the folklore program at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carrie Mae Weems describes her artistic process

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about 'The Kitchen Table Series, 1990'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the process of creating 'The Kitchen Table Series, 1990'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the intentions behind 'The Kitchen Table Series, 1990,' pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the intentions behind 'The Kitchen Table Series, 1990,' pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about the exclusion of African Americans from critical art discourse

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about being the subject of her own photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about her decision to focus on self-portraiture

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Carrie Mae Weems describes her creative process

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Carrie Mae Weems talks about representing the black experience

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Carrie Mae Weems describes the use of artifacts in her work

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

3$4

DATitle
Carrie Mae Weems recalls working for Anthony Barboza and Louis Draper
Carrie Mae Weems describes the influence of Zora Neale Hurston on her work
Transcript
You're studying under great photographers [at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, New York], great black photographers, how--how did that inform the artist who you were becoming?$$Well, DeCarava [Roy DeCarava] was probably the most important. I thought that it was Anthony Barboza, because DeCarava, DeCarava's style is very, very subtle. And he's a, you know, he just a master, a master printer, and I was a little intimidated by him also. I was afraid of him, and but one night, not one night--you know, again I was a fairly intense person. I was taking classes I was trying to make some decisions about how I was going to move forward. And I decided that there were several photographers in New York [New York] that I was really interested in working with. One was the Japanese photographer Hiro [Yasuhiro Wakabayashi]. The other one was Lou Draper [Louis Draper], and the third was Anthony Barboza. So I stayed up, I had their prints on my wall in my ap- my, my 84th Street (speaks French) appartement. I had their prints on my wall you know clippings from magazines and publications. And I stayed up for like forty-eight hours like looking and writing and thinking 'cause that's what happens when you're hungry, you know. You can, you know, you can live on adrenaline for a while and I decided that I was going to work with one of these men. And that I was going to start calling on Monday morning at eight o'clock. So I'd stayed up, I'd made this decision I had their names written down, I had their telephone numbers written down, I had their addresses written down. Monday morning comes along I pick up the phone, and I start calling these numbers, one after the other, one after the other, all morning until somebody picked up the phone. So finally somebody picks up, it's his studio, and I said, "Hello is Lou Draper there?" "No, Lou's out in the, in the, in the dark room." "Okay, can you ask him, when, when can--," "Well, you can call back in five minutes?" Call the other number (makes sound), "Is Anthony Barboza there?" "Anthony's out in the studio right now, but you know, you can call back in ten minutes." "Oh, okay." Picked up the phone (makes sound), "Mr. Hiro is not here right now, you must call back next week." (Laughter) This, I mean just this sort of crazy thing. And finally I realize that two of the numbers were virtually the same except for one digit. And that Anthony Barboza and Lou Draper were actually working together. And that, when I was calling, one would be in the studio and the other would be in the dark room. Or one would be in the--right the--the, you know. They were sort of doing this thing and finally Anthony got on the phone. Tony Barboza got on the phone, and I said, "Hello, this is [HistoryMaker] Carrie Mae Weems calling. You have absolutely no idea who I am, but I know who you are and I've decided that I'm coming to work for you." And he said, "Who is this? Shirley? Is this Shirley?" And I said, "No, this is Carrie Mae Weems, and I have been up for a long time, and I've been looking at your photographs for a long time. And I just can't think of a better person to work with, so I'd like to come by and talk with you to find out when I could start." And he said, "Well can you come by on Wednesday?" And that's how I started working with Anthony Barboza. And then I worked with him for a long time and Lou was there, so I was suddenly working with two of my favorite photographers in one fell swoop. And it was really, really wonderful and then you know, that he didn't hang up on me was like a miracle. But I was so impassioned that I was just--it's like I have to do this. You know, and you know, like there's no other way of doing it, than other--you know than, than being direct. I've gotta do this, and I gotta work with you, I'm looking at these photograph's that you can teach me what I need to know. And so, I work with him, and I would then work with him on special projects because then I'm flipping back and forth. I know California, I know New York, I know how to drive, I--you know, I'm like you know. So you know, so he--if he needed to go to San Francisco [California] he would call me up, and I would pick him up and I would take care of everything. If he needed to go to L.A. [Los Angeles, California], I would pick him up I would drive I would take care of everything. So I was really a good little assistant you know, and I'd stay out of your way. So it was pretty, pretty wonderful and they were great teachers, they were great friends they were, you know, very kind to me they were very kind to me. And I learned a great deal from them.$So your first collection of photographs, photographs, text and spoken word. Your 'Family Pictures and Stories' ['Family Pictures and Stories, 1981-1982,' Carrie Mae Weems], that you created I guess was it the following year, 1983?$$Well I started the photographs earlier, I started making photographs of my family earlier. And, it was really through my encounter with Zora Neale Hurston that I really began to understand the power of the personal narrative. You know the--even though my father [Myrlie Weems] had been a storyteller I didn't really think of him as a storyteller, he just told good stories, right. I began to understand that he was really a storyteller that he was really the bearer of narrative. Not all of us are that; not all of us are that, right. And so Zora sort of introduced me to a way of thinking about possibilities of the ways of which I could work with photography. And use photography and language, and narrative together even though she wasn't using photographs. It was still kind of what she represented that sort of fostered a whole new set of ideas. I am so grateful, I'm so grateful that she, she lived. I'm so grateful that she did what she did, that she el- she freed me. She freed me; she gave me the right and the, and the authority to do the work that I actually went on to do with 'Family Pictures and Stories.' It was a very important work for me.$$So when you say that Zora freed you, how, how did this occur, what, what happen?$$By, by example. You know that there was--she charted the path. So she'd allowed--she gave me space. You know, I mean that's the thing I think is so wonderful about what people do. Really when you are the--what, what you being the trailblazer means that you have really opened the path for others to follow. So she, she was that, she was that for me and for a whole hoard of people that came along with me. That suddenly there was an articulated voice positioned in a certain kind of cadence that described a certain kind of life that was not urban. That was not urban right that was very important right. I supposed that in some ways Hughes, Langston Hughes is the same way right, this way of describing that was not urban. You know, that was, was always sort of like you know, like waltzing with the blues, so to speak, right. And I think that there's something really valuable, it was certainly valuable for me and--$$So, so at--where were you, were you in school [at the University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California] when you learned about Zora Neale Hurston (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yeah in school, I was in school. I was in, you know, I was in that place where I didn't know what my voice was. You know, that I was--I knew lots of people, I looked at lots of things. I was making photographs, and I'm actually a very good--can be, sometimes a good photographer. So you know, so I was doing what I do but I was still not--I hadn't yet found my own articulation it just was not, it was not clear what that was. What my direction needed to be how it needed to be. And so I went to San Francisco [California] to visit a friend for the weekend because I was so despondent, I was so depressed. I was struggling, that sort of struggle to find my way through. And on the way out the door that Monday morning, I looked down, and there was this, this book 'Their Eyes Are Watching God' [sic. 'Their Eyes Were Watching God,' Zora Neale Hurston]. And I remember somebody told me that I reminded them of Zora Neale Hurston, but I didn't know who Zora Neale Hurston was. So it was like, oh that's that woman somebody said that I reminded them of, and so I asked my friend if I could take the book. Her son had just finished reading it for class. I got on the bus, I decide I was going to take the long way back to San Diego [California] because I didn't wanna get there too fast. And I read 'Their Eyes Are Watching God' all the way from San Francisco to San Diego. And I got off the bus reading the book, pulling my suitcase behind me. And I got into a taxi reading the book. And then I got to my apartment, and I was reading the book and I unlock my door and I was reading the book. And I walk into my bedroom, and I was reading the book and I sat in my bed and I finished it. I said, "Oh, oh, okay, okay I got it, I got it, thank you." It was just such a powerful example; I was so grateful. Got up the next day went to the library, checked out everything they had on Zora Neale Hurston, ordered everything else they didn't have. Bought everything else that I possibly could and finished up my degree and then decided I was going to be a folklorist. And went off to UC Berkeley [University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California] to study, to study there, you know, it was like you know the, the lights, the lights were just sort of turned on bright. How amazing is that, you know you just never know who you're going to touch by doing what you do. Phenomenal.

Donald Camp

Artist and photography professor Donald Eugene Camp was born on July 28, 1940 in Meadville, Pennsylvania to Ira and Martha Camp. He graduated from Camden High School in 1958 and went on to serve in the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1972.

From 1972 to 1980, Camp worked as a photographer for the Philadelphia Evening and Sunday Bulletin. He then returned to school and received his B.F.A. degree in 1987 and his M.F.A. degree in 1989, both from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He subsequently taught for two years as an assistant professor at the Tyler School of Art. Then, after receiving a number of artist fellowships in the 1990s, Camp was hired as an artist-in-residence and assistant professor of photography at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania in 2000. Camp retired in 2012 as professor emeritus.

Camp started exhibiting his art in group shows in 1982 and in solo exhibitions in 1989. His ongoing photographic series, Dust Shaped Hearts, began in 1990, and sought to counter stereotypes of African American men. The series has grown to include men and women of all races, acknowledging that the struggle against ignorance and intolerance is universal. Camp’s artwork has been exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Institute for Contemporary Art, the Delaware Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Noyes Museum; and is included in a number of important public and private collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His work has also been featured at Gallery 339 in Philadelphia for a number of years.

Camp has been honored for his work with a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and multiple Pew Fellowships. He was a Pennsylvania Visual Artist Fellow four times, and was awarded a Honickman Foundation Grant in 2008. Camp was a founding member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, and sat on the board of trustees of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania from 2002 to 2005. He was also the subject of an American Artist Oral History at the Smithsonian Institute, and has served on the advisory board of the Creative Artist Network (now The Center for Emerging Visual Artists). He is a member of the Bahá'í Faith and lives and works in Philadelphia.

Donald Camp was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 13, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.144

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/11/2014 |and| 6/13/2014

Last Name

Camp

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Eugene

Occupation
Schools

Eckles Elementary School

Farrell Jr. High School

Farrell Area High School

Camden High School

Temple University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Donald

Birth City, State, Country

Meadville

HM ID

CAM10

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

I Created Thee, Yet Thou Hast Abased Thyself. Rise Then Unto That For Which Thou Wast Created.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

7/28/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Photographer Donald Camp (1940 - ) was an artist-in-residence and assistant professor of photography at Ursinus College from 2000 to 2010. He has been awarded numerous fellowships for his photographic artwork, and was a founding member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

Employment

Ursinus College

Temple University's Tyler School of Art

Philadelphia Evening & Sunday Bulletin

United States Air Force

Freelance Photographer

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Donald Camp's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Donald Camp lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his maternal grandmother's murder

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Donald Camp talks about his mother's musical talent

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Donald Camp recalls his mother's illness

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Donald Camp describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Donald Camp remembers his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Donald Camp describes the origin of his surname

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Donald Camp talks about his father's occupation

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Donald Camp describes Farrell, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Donald Camp recalls how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Donald Camp talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes his brother James Camp

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Donald Camp talks about the career of his brother, William Camp

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Donald Camp remembers the racial demographics of Farrell, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Donald Camp describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Donald Camp talks about living in a segregated society

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Donald Camp remembers attending L.R. Eckles Elementary School in Farrell, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Donald Camp recalls the responses to the murder of Emmett Till

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers moving to Camden, New Jersey after his mother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Donald Camp talks about becoming a magician

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his early experiences of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Donald Camp recalls his graduation from Camden High School in Camden, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes his involvement with magician organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Donald Camp recalls his decision to join the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Donald Camp remembers being stationed in Marin County, California

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Donald Camp recalls learning about composition at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Donald Camp recalls seeing African American entertainers in Paris, France, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Donald Camp recalls seeing African American entertainers in Paris, France, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Donald Camp talks his early interest in photography

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Donald Camp recalls his first camera

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Donald Camp describes the photographers that inspired him, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes the qualities of a good photographer

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Donald Camp describes the photographers that inspired him, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Donald Camp recalls developing his skills as a photographer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Donald Camp remembers joining the Baha'i faith

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Donald Camp recalls how he was introduced to the Baha'i faith

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Donald Camp remembers his deployment to Vietnam

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers being stationed at Cam Ranh Bay Base in Vietnam

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Donald Camp remembers the U.S. military's struggle to integrate

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Donald Camp recalls leaving the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Donald Camp recalls meeting Philip Jones Griffiths

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Donald Camp remembers being hired at the Philadelphia Bulletin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Donald Camp recalls the diversification of the Philadelphia Bulletin's staff

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes the lack of diversity in the newspaper industry

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Donald Camp talks about his experiences as a newspaper photographer

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Donald Camp remembers covering the MOVE crisis in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Donald Camp describes his reasons for leaving the Philadelphia Bulletin

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Donald Camp's interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Donald Camp remembers resigning from the Philadelphia Bulletin

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Donald Camp recalls searching for jobs after leaving the Philadelphia Bulletin

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Donald Camp remembers his decision to pursue fine arts photography at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Donald Camp talks about influential instructors at Temple University, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Donald Camp recalls his apprehension about attending college at an older age

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Donald Camp talks about influential instructors at Temple University, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Donald Camp describes Roy DeCarava and Robert Frank

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Donald Camp describes his master's thesis project

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Donald Camp remembers being offered a graduate fellowship at Temple University

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers directing Temple University's Future Faculty Fellowship Program

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Donald Camp describes his inspiration for the 'Dust Shaped Hearts' exhibition, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his inspiration for the 'Dust Shaped Hearts' exhibition, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Donald Camp remembers the creation of the 'Dust Shaped Hearts' photographs

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes the reviews for his 'Dust Shaped Hearts' exhibit

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Donald Camp recalls his inspiration for naming the 'Dust Shaped Hearts' exhibit

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes how he chose his photography subjects, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Donald Camp describes how he chose his photography subjects, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Donald Camp talks about his perception of his work

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Donald Camp talks about his fellowships

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Donald Camp recalls purchasing his home

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Donald Camp talks about his approach to photography

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers joining the faculty at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Donald Camp recalls his approach to teaching photography

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes a photography exhibit and magic show at Austin College in Sherman, Texas

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Donald Camp describes his favorite magician

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Donald Camp talks about African American magicians

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Donald Camp talks about his retirement from Ursinus College

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes his artistic philosophy

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Donald Camp reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Donald Camp reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Donald Camp talks about his retirement and his plans for the future

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Donald Camp talks about his involvement with the Society for Photographic Education

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his family

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Donald Camp recalls his role in the founding of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$2

DATape

3$6

DAStory

8$9

DATitle
Donald Camp recalls learning about composition at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France
Donald Camp describes his master's thesis project
Transcript
Even when I went to Alaska, Alaska was interesting, for two years but it was interesting because I, because of being able to experience, you know, the aurora borealis and, you know, the midnight sun, and all of that, I mean, that was a fascinating thing. And then to France from there and being about what was it ninety kilometers, about eighty miles--seventy miles north of Paris [France]. And I could go to Paris almost every weekend, and I did. Because, you know, I could go and, and, and I wanted to go to the Louvre [Musee du Louvre, Paris, France] and I could, I can get in the Louvre free because they would give--the [U.S.] military would get passes and nobody wanted those passes everybody else wanted to go to Pigalle [Quartier Pigalle, Paris, France]. I would get the passes and go to the museums, and just walk Paris and see the art. And I must have, I must've walked, you know, I must've studied probably three--a good three months solid in the Louvre walking it and studying.$$Now, you--I have a note here that you were, you were impressed by impressionistic artists?$$ I was. Yeah, I, yeah--$$Or, well, what art impressed you the most in, in the Louvre? Or did any of the art inspire the work you do today?$$ None of it.$$None of it, okay.$$ No. It was classic, and I went there to study cl- I, I, I, I cut out a little--I took a 35mm transparency and I popped the slide out and I used that, and I would go into the--and I would compose and recompose paintings and sculptures.$$So, just the little frame that goes around the slide and you would hold it in front of the--$$ Yeah, yeah. And, if I hold it close, it was like a wide angle lens and, if I hold it a distance like a telephoto but just concentrating on that little section. And I could change it horizontal, vertical, or do whatever I wanted to with it. And that's how I studied the compositions. So, yeah, that's, that's why I would, you know, that's what I would do in Paris. And, and plus, you know, I read, at that time, I read tech books almost like novels. Formulas to me were the most fascinating thing because I could find out--I could read a formula book and make a comparison in my head as to what it would do a color on a piece of paper. So, yeah, it--that was a fascinating time for me.$In grad school [at Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] you had a--I guess a thesis project or something?$$ Yes.$$And what was it?$$ Yeah, that was--you know, I still like the work--it--but it was--again, this was based on a part of a Baha'i prayer. And that prayer is--a part of that prayer is: "Thus their superstitions have become barriers between themselves and their own hearts." And I love that because what I tried to do physically was to set up a barrier and so I used comp- I, I, used appropriated images from newspapers, and they really are--they were based on superstition. My choices of the images were based on what I think are superstitions and that is inferiority or superiority of race, inferiority, or superiority of gender, you know. And so, I took these images and I, I, I copied them and then I printed them on mirror. And so, when you saw the photograph, you could see, you know, you are here, then you had this image of something that depicted racism and then you saw yourself behind it. One of the pieces was something that we assumed that I'm supposed to understand in one way, it was a diptych. And on the left is an image of something someone called 'Dr. Claude Cunningham Tips His Hat' [ph.]. He was a delegate at the, at 1948 convention in Atlantic City [New Jersey]. I mean, he had a hat on and he's tipping it and he has cane and cigar sticking out of his mouth, and he's from Texas. The way the image was made I was supposed to assume that he was this racist. On the right was: 'Buxom Virginia Jack Swaffs Her Thirst,' and it's a buxom woman, you know, and she's got a bottle of soda. Well, on the reverse of those images, the reverse on the back of that page, it was what the women's caucus was doing at the convention and they were talking about, "What are going to do with this terrible new weapon that we have?" And they were talking about the atomic bomb. "What are we going to do about women's rights? What are we going to do about racism?" That was the discussion that the women were talking about at the convention. And so, I took those images and I flipped them and I photographed both sides, and so it's, it's Dr. Claude Cunningham [ph.] and Miss Virginia Jack [ph.] and then the text so you can see what was going on between a heart and self. So, that was--those were just kind of a few of the images that I did for the thesis, but that was the foundation of it. The beautiful thing about that also is, if the pieces are lit right, not only are you seeing self, barrier and self, but if it's lit right, it projects onto the floor so that you're standing in the image as well so it just envelopes you in that sense. So, that was, you know, my thesis work.$$Okay, this is 1989, right?$$ Yes.$$Who is your advisor?$$ That would have been Martha Madigan. Will Larson [William G. Larson] left just shortly after I started the grad program and then Martha Madigan took it over, so she would have been the advisor.

James Phillips

Visual artist James Phillips was born in 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. Phillips attended the Fleisher Art Memorial School in Philadelphia in the 1960s. He then went on to study at the Philadelphia College of Art (University of the Arts for Philadelphia) from 1964 to 1965, followed by a brief affiliation with the Lee Cultural Center in 1968. Phillips then attended the Printing Trade School in New York City. From there, he became a member of the Harlem-founded Weusi Artist Collective, a group of young artists who made African iconic imagery and symbols a central part of their work, from 1969 to 1973.

In 1970, Phillips met the founding members of AfriCobra (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), a group that was committed to incorporating African aesthetics, iconography and positive political imagery into African American art. Phillips also became a member of AfriCobra. From 1973 to 1977, he served as an artist-in-residence at Howard University with duties as a mural consultant. Then, from 1977 to 1979, Phillips was affiliated with C.E.T.A., a nationwide arts initiative of the Carter Administration. After participating in the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Exchange Fellowship in Tokyo, Japan in 1980, he was appointed as a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley from 1983 to 1984. Phillips went on to teach courses at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and Hampton University. Phillips earned his M.F.A. degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1998. In 2001, Phillips re-joined the faculty of the art department at Howard University as a lecturer, eventually becoming an associate professor of foundation and painting where he oversees all the graduate coursework.

As a painter, Phillips has participated in over seventy group and solo exhibitions in galleries and museums both nationally and internationally. His work is included in several well-known collections, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Arts and Artifacts Collection of the New York City Public Library and Hampton University. Phillips’ works have also been specially created for public art projects for the city of Baltimore, Howard University, the Department of Parks in New York City, and the transit system for the City of San Francisco. In 1994, he was commissioned by the Philadelphia Airport to create a permanent piece of art for their domestic wing. The Art in Embassies program of the United States Department of State purchased two of Phillips’ paintings in 2006 for the American Embassy in Togo, West Africa. Phillips was also honored with the Creative Artists Public Service Award in 1971.

James Phillips was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 5, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.210

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/5/2013

Last Name

Phillips

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Henry

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Harriton High School

Philadelphia Museum College of Art

Printing Trade School

Maryland Institute College of Art

Search Occupation Category
First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Brooklyn

HM ID

PHI06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Studio

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

4/29/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Visual artist James Phillips (1945 - ) a member of the Weusi and AfriCobra artist groups, has participated in over seventy art exhibitions around the world. His work is included in several well-known collections.

Employment

Howard University

Museum Institute College of Art

Hampton University

University of California, Berkeley

Suitland High School

Favorite Color

All Colors

Timing Pairs
0,0:3910,25:7650,47:8030,52:29217,428:81580,901:108070,1089:117108,1174:141175,1386:142171,1410:161610,1686:170826,1818:182749,1954:186686,1995:240530,2454:240822,2459:253906,2573:256490,2612:273029,2816:273645,2831:293400,3095:293800,3101:310150,3310$0,0:3785,65:4748,79:25204,193:27756,228:42868,378:43808,389:128818,1468:131567,1473:161169,1793:161792,1805:177010,1938:182350,1969
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Phillips' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Phillips lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Phillips talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Phillips describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Phillips talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Phillips talks about his family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Phillips describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Phillips describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Phillips talks about attending Northside School in Gretna, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Phillips talks about his parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Phillips talks about his affinity for art as a child at Northside School in Gretna, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Phillips talks about moving from Gretna, Virginia to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Phillips describes the differences between Gretna, Virginia and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Phillips talks about going to school in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Phillips describes his childhood interests and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Phillips describes life in Gretna, Virginia and living next door to white sharecroppers

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Phillips describes his experience of racial discrimination in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Phillips talks about how he became involved with the March on Washington in 1963

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Phillips describes his teenage years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Phillips talks about his activities at Harriton High School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Phillips talks about his activities at Harriton High School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Phillips remembers meeting HistoryMakers A.B. Spellman and Amiri Baraka, and Ted Jones

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Phillips talks about the origins of black art

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Phillips talks about his experience at the Philadelphia College of Art

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Phillips talks about moving to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Phillips describes the music scene in New York City during the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Phillips talks about the music he listens to while painting

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Phillips describes becoming serious about creating visual art

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Phillips talks about his brief return to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and his involvement with the Lee Cultural Center

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Phillips talks about his return to New York City and his work as an opaquer and printer

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Phillips describes meeting members of the Weusi Artists Collective

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Phillips describes the origins of the Weusi Artists Collective which preceded the East Community Center

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Phillips talks about the East Educational and Cultural Center for People of African Descent

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - James Phillips talks about The Last Poets as well as other poets and musicians in New York City during the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - James Phillips talks about his artwork and meeting HistoryMaker A.B. Spellman

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Phillips talks about his painting "The Dealer"

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Phillips talks about Harlem, New York in the mid-1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Phillips talks about artistic influences on the development of his painting style

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Phillips describes the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Phillips talks about the Studio Museum, the Weusi Artists Collective, and AfriCOBRA

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Phillips talks about incorporating African motifs and color contrast into his artwork

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Phillips remembers painting a backdrop for a John Coltrane award concert at Town Hall in 1973

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - James Phillips describes his art exhibitions in the 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - James Phillips gives a history of AfriCOBRA

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Phillips talks about AfriCOBRA and the evolution of his painting style while an artist-in-residence at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Phillips talks about HistoryMaker Jeff Donaldson

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Phillips talks about musician Donald Byrd

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Phillips describes the atmosphere at Howard University in Washington, D.C. during the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Phillips talks about the pitfalls of making album cover artwork

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Phillips talks about his time as an artist-in-residence for the CETA Arts Program

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James Phillips talks about his experience as an artist-in-residence at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - James Phillips talks about his NEA fellowship experience in Japan and his interest in mandalas, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Phillips talks about his NEA fellowship experience in Japan and his interest in mandalas, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Phillips talks about exploring new ways to present his ideas through art

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Phillips talks about the relationship between cosmograms across cultures

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James Phillips talks about his time living in California

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - James Phillips describes his commissioned mural for Philadelphia International Airport, "Gateways to the World"

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - James Phillips talks about the logistics of government-funded public art, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - James Phillips talks about the logistics of government-funded public art, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - James Phillips describes earning his M.F.A. degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - James Phillips talks about the requirements for an M.F.A. degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - James Phillips describes earning his M.F.A. degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - James Phillips talks about his early teaching career

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - James Phillips talks about teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and his career highlights

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - James Phillips describes highlights from his time at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - James Phillips talks about his students' artistic philosophies

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - James Phillips talks about his own artistic philosophy and practices

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - James Phillips reflects on his life

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - James Phillips reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - James Phillips talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - James Phillips talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - James Phillips reflects on how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - James Phillips narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$7

DAStory

7$2

DATitle
James Phillips describes life in Gretna, Virginia and living next door to white sharecroppers
James Phillips talks about exploring new ways to present his ideas through art
Transcript
Okay. So, now you're in school and, you're in high school, and you graduated in '62 [1962] or '63 [1963]?$$Sixty-four [1964].$$Sixty-four, [1964], okay, '64 [1964]. Now, you're in school when the March on Washington takes place [in 1963].$$Oh, yeah, I was here.$$Okay. So, you actually came to the March?$$Yeah.$$Well, tell us about that. How did you get a chance to go to the March?$$Well, I actually didn't finish talking about things when I was in [Gretna] Virginia.$$Okay, well, go ahead.$$Like I said, I was saying we had our farm. We had what I thought was our forty acres, which turns out to be twenty-two acres. And there was this white family, and they had a sharecropper. And the sharecroppers that they had, they had about three of them during the time that I was there, they were all white. Now, the house that I grew up in, it was basically a log cabin. And then they added on a kitchen, and a porch, and several other rooms, and upstairs. The house that the sharecroppers lived in was about the same. The only difference was, I mean, what I saw visually was they, they kept it painted. They painted the logs white, and where the dirt--they painted that brown. So, you had this brown and white posh looking cabin. Ours was just a cabin. And then later on, they would put that brick siding on it to uplift, spiff it up. So, so, the sharecroppers, they would have families, they had kids. And then of course, the Ingram [ph.] family, which owned--where the sharecroppers worked from--they had kids. And they were all a little older than me. So, they'd want to play, or I'd want to play, because I had nobody else to play with unless I went into town. And wasn't old enough at that time to go into town on my own, which was about a mile away. So, we would play. And we would have these little incidents. And they'd, of course, end up using the "N" word, right, and we'd end up fighting. So, and they would come back the next day. "Can..." they called me Jimmy then. "Can Jimmy come out and play?" So, this went on. And of course, if they saw me in town, you know, they'd look the other way, and I'd ignore them, too. So, this went on back and forth. And then the old--Mr. Ingram, the old man, he used to work for the railroad, and he only had one arm, so he was scary. There was another family called the Clays [ph.] that lived at the end of the road, and I used to play with their two sons. And Miss Ingram was very nice. She would invite me in the house, and he'd come home and chase me out. He had a son, Frank, Jr., he was a schoolteacher; I used to play with his kids. And his wife, I was okay with. But he'd come home and he'd chase me out. (Laughter). So, this thing went on. It was either--somebody--the mother or the father, it was either one or the other. Like, the Clay kids, the mother didn't like me associating with them, but I kind of grew on her, so then she said it was alright. So, I had this back and forth thing. And like I said, the town was a mile away. So as I got older, I started going into town hanging out with the black kids. And of course, I went, I would see them in school. And of course, we'd go, we all went to church together. So--$$Was that--you said it was, what kind of church was it?$$Baptist.$$Baptist, okay.$$Yeah.$All right.$$All right. So, this, we're talking about--but we're talking about what you learned in Japan.$$Oh, I just started to see a different direction for me to take my work. Because even back in the days when I was in New York [City], I had somewhat of a problem. Because I didn't really fit--the way I was working, with the work-- even though, you know, it had a strong connection with the African imagery and had a strong connection with the music--I had, I didn't fit in, because the uptown artists felt that it wasn't political enough. So, they had issues with it. The downtown artists--because there's two divisions of artists in New York [City], probably in Chicago [Illinois], too. You got the uptown artists and you got the downtown artists. And the downtown artists, most of them are in the galleries, and then people in uptown at the time were more political. They felt that my work was too African and too political. So I didn't really fit, because they weren't really looking at what I was doing, or they weren't aware of what I was doing. And the same thing happened when I did the mural at Cramton [Hall at Howard University in Washington, D.C.]. So, I was looking at this new way of presenting my ideas and making my statement, and still maintaining my sense of abstractionism. And see, one of the things--since I was in this limbo, one of the things that attracted me to AfriCOBRA [African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists] was the fact that they were very much into abstraction. Because they had--one of their principles is mid-point mimesis, which means that it's like a place between realism and abstraction. So, that was one of the reasons why I gravitated towards them and eventually stopped associating with Weusi [Artists Collective]. Well, one of the reasons was distance, particularly when I got to California, you know, it was too far away. So, this was a new--I guess you would call it a new search, a new direction for me.

Napoleon Jones-Henderson

Napoleon Jones-Henderson was born in 1943 in Chicago, Illinois. Jones-Henderson attended the Sorbonne Student Continuum Student and Artists Center in Paris, France in 1963 where spent one year immersed in an independent study program. Upon returning to the United States, he enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago and received his B.F.A. degree from there in 1971. Jones-Henderson went on to earn with his M.A. degree from Northern Illinois University in 1971 and his M.F.A. degree from the Maryland Institute College Art in 2005.

In 1968, during the apex of the Chicago Black Arts Movement, Jones-Henderson became involved with a Chicago-based artists’ collective called COBRA (Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists). The collective changed their name in 1969 to AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). During the formative years of AfriCOBRA, Jones-Henderson created large pictorial weavings that were included in the group’s important series of exhibitions mounted at the Studio Museum in Harlem in the early 1970s. He has been an active member of AfriCOBRA since 1969 and is the longest standing member of the group. In 2011, Jones-Henderson produced Africobra: Art for the People (2011), a documentary about the groups’ involvement with the 1960s Black Arts Movement.

Jones-Henderson became the Executive Director of the Research Institute of African and African Diaspora Arts, Inc., in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1979. He then went on to serve in various academic positions at Malcolm X College in Chicago, the Massachusetts College of Arts, Emerson College in Boston. Jones Henderson was appointed adjunct artist critic and lecturer at the Vermont College of Norwich University in Montpelier, Vermont in 1989. In addition, Jones-Henderson served as an artist-in-residence at Towson University, Syracuse University, and the McDonough School. In 2005, Jones-Henderson was appointed associate professor of art at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. His artwork is housed at the DuSable Museum of African American History, Schomburg Cdner of Research in Black Culture, Southside Community Art Center, Hampton University Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

In recognition of his art, Jones-Henderson received the Merit of Honor Award from the Walters Art Museum and the Award for Outstanding Recognition from the Museum of Science and Industry. He was also honored by the National Conference of Artists with the Award of Excellence.

Napoleon Jones-Henderson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 22, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.009

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/22/2013

Last Name

Jones-Henderson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

George Washington Carver High School

Wilson Junior College

Shore Shore Junior College

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Northern Illinois University

Maryland Institute College of Art

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Napoleon

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

JON32

Favorite Season

All Seasons Except Winter

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

History Does Not Make Appointments.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

11/23/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans (Lima)

Short Description

Mixed media artist Napoleon Jones-Henderson (1943 - ) is director of the Research Institute of African and African Diaspora Arts Inc. and associate professor of art at Benedict College, is the longest standing member of AfriCOBRA.

Employment

Research Institute of African and African Diaspora Arts, Inc.

Benedict College

Vermont College

Emerson College

Roxbury Community College

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Favorite Color

All Colors

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Napoleon Jones-Henderson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his maternal grandfather's migration from Alabama to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about the history of Juneteenth and Emancipation Day celebrations across the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his father's life in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his memories of growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his father's World War II service and how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson explains the origin of his first and last names

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson remembers the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls the Hall Library, Regal Theater, and Museum of Science and Industry on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls moving to Chicago's Altgeld Gardens community and attending George Washington Carver High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about Pan-Africanist scholar Frederic H. Hammurabi Robb and about Chicago's Chicken Man, Anderson Punch

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls his teachers at George Washington Carver High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls his teachers at George Washington Carver High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls his elementary school years in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his educators at George Washington Carver High School in Chicago, Illinois including principal Curtis C. Melnick

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes the Altgeld Gardens community of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes the Altgeld Gardens community of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his extracurricular activities at George Washington Carver High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson remembers Sammy Davis, Jr.'s performance at George Washington Carver High School in Chicago, Illinois, and learning to dance

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes preparing for college as a student at George Washington Carver High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls receiving a scholarship from the Jewel Tea Company to attend Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his decision to attend junior college and continue working for Jewel Tea Company after graduating from high school

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes receiving a scholarship to study art at the University of Paris in France

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about leaving his position at the Jewel Tea Company to study abroad in Paris, France

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recounts his journey to Paris, France to study art at the University of Paris

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes studying art at the University of Paris in during the summer of 1963

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his travels in Europe during the summer of 1963

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his return to Chicago, Illinois from Paris, France in 1963

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes the Black People's Topographical Research Centers on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes the intellectual environment of Paris, France in 1963

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recounts his decision to stop cutting his hair

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls the black community of Chicago, Illinois during the 1960s, the Nation of Islam, and HistoryMaker Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about Malcolm X and black activism in Chicago, Illinois during the 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls the Black Arts organizations in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his interest in African textiles in art of the African Diaspora

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls a lecture by Whitney Halstead on African art at the Art Institute of Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls receiving a fellowship from the Art Institute of Chicago to study African art and art of the African Diaspora

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his religious upbringing

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his grandmother's religious beliefs and the spiritual importance of family and African heritage

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls the formation of AfriCOBRA in 1968, civil unrest in Chicago, Illinois, and the Wall of Respect mural project

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about AfriCOBRA and the desire to foster a uniquely African American artistic tradition

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes AfriCOBRA's aesthetics and the role of the image-maker

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes AfriCOBRA's first exhibition, at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York in 1970

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about the National Conference of Artists

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson explains the aesthetic principles of AfriCOBRA's works

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about HistoryMaker Wadsworth A. Jarrell, Sr.'s Wall of Respect mural

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about the Afro-Arts Theater and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes the network of African American cultural and political organizations in Chicago, Illinois in the late 1960s

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his mentors at the Art Institute of Chicago, including HistoryMakers Margaret Burroughs and Richard Hunt

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his fellowship with textile artist Claire Zeisler and the founding of Ankh Studio

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson explains the roles of African art and Egyptian symbols in the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about Raah Bird and the Ankh Studio in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes the South Shore community of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls teaching at Malcolm X College in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes Malcolm X College in Chicago, Illinois, and how it has changed since the 1970s

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson lists artists involved in AfriCOBRA, including Omar Lama

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about muralists Calvin B. Jones, Mitchell Caton, William Walker and Eugene Eda, and other artists

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls studying textile arts under Mahboob Shahzaman at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about marrying Annette Jones and moving to Boston, Massachusetts to teach at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about teaching at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about buying the Edward Everett Hale House in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes the history of his home and studio, the Edward Everett Hale House in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes cultural events at the Edward Everett Hale House in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls the 1999 Juneteenth celebration at the Edward Everett Hale House in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson contrasts the political and social environments of Chicago, Illinois and Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recounts his 1979 arrest in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recounts his 1979 arrest in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about NCA artists in Detroit, Michigan, including HistoryMakers Willis Bing Davis, Jon Onye Lockard, and Tyree Guyton

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about accepting an offer to teach at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes challenges he faced teaching students at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson remembers a controversy in 1999 over the flying of a Confederate battle flag over the South Carolina State House

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about employment opportunities for art faculty at historically black colleges and universities

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recounts his consulting work for USAID in Haiti

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes traveling to Barbados and Mauretania

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recounts his trip to Mauritania, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recounts his trip to Mauritania, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls Festac '77, the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, in Lagos, Nigeria

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about experiencing a spiritual connection to Africa at Festac '77 in Lagos, Nigeria

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about the people he met in Nigeria during Festac '77

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his visit to the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove of Osogbo, Nigeria

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson reflects upon Festac '77 and the presidential election of HistoryMaker Barack Obama

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls the contrast between luxury guest accommodations and local poverty in Nigeria during Festac '77

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes his family

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his desire to preserve his artworks and his books

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Napoleon Jones-Henderson narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$7

DAStory

4$9

DATitle
Napoleon Jones-Henderson recalls his teachers at George Washington Carver High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2
Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about his mentors at the Art Institute of Chicago, including HistoryMakers Margaret Burroughs and Richard Hunt
Transcript
Now was Carver [George Washington Carver High School, Chicago, Illinois] rather new, I mean new when you when you moved out there (unclear)--$$No, no, it was an old, old--well, it might have been new in the sense that the high school building might have been built in the '50s [1950s], early '50s [1950s], before I moved out there. But the older part of the school, which were single-story long structures, because Altgeld Gardens [Chicago, Illinois] was built right after World War II, as those sort of settlements they were building around the country for relocation of military and their families. Brother Green, Thomas Green [ph.], the English teacher, he was friends with, and it's not surprising when I think about it, they were all colleagues together with Lorraine Hansberry, and Gwendolyn Brooks, and [HM] Margaret Burroughs, and you know, you go on down the line. All of these people were a part of the people who taught me at George Washington Carver High School. And actually, when Lorraine Hansberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun' was on Broadway, because of that friendship with my teachers, T. Green, we were the only persons outside of the Broadway production who were given rights to perform 'A Raisin in the Sun' while it was on Broadway (laughter).$$So were in it? Did you, did--$$Walter Lee.$$Okay.$$Yep. I still got my script and all my notes. And--$$Now that's some, that's basic, that's one of the lead roles--$$Hey--$$--in the play.$$--you know.$$Yeah, the role played role played by Sidney Poitier and other great actors.$$Yeah, but I don't think they did as good a job as I did--$$Okay (laughter).$$--'cause see, I'm from Chicago (laughter).$$Okay.$$But, yeah, so we had a, we had a deep education in terms of our school being populated by artistically engaged faculty. And I mean they, they didn't just--we didn't have a relationship with them just in school. We had relationships with them after school as well, 'cause they were very much committed to that community of students beyond the classroom, 'cause Helen used to, Mrs. Joyner [ph.] used to take us out to tile companies and get all the broken tiles or out to bottled soda distributors and get all the broken bottles that they'd have, 'cause back then they used to put soda in glass bottles. Yeah, we'd get all that broken glass, and we'd get ceramic tiles. And we'd go to fabric stores and get all the leftover fabric. And you know, she just opened up where that art was more than painting, and drawing, and sculpting. It was anything you can do with the stuff you do things with. And so she would have us, and our parents were very comfortable in lettin' us do whatever the teachers wanted after school, and they'd take us to do different things. And they were really, they were just an extension of our family.$In terms of that, just speaking about that, I mean, I, I haven't asked you who your, other than high school, I haven't asked you who your mentors were. And did you have a particular mentor at, at Art Institute [of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois], and was there, was there any particular mentors amongst the older artists in Chicago [Illinois]?$$Yeah, well, you know, Marion Perkins, and [HM] Margaret Burroughs, and Charlie Burroughs [Charles Gordon Burroughs], and [HM] Richard Hunt of course 'cause I knew about him because he had gone to the Art Institute, and he graduated in '55 [1955]. And, and serendipitously I guess you could say, since he graduated in 1955 and won a traveling fellowship from the Art Institute, no other black person had won one until I did in 1971. So, I mean, you know, take that, you know, so those and Etheline [ph.] Henderson, who was a ceramist and [HM] Geraldine McCullough, sculpturist, I mean, you know, all these different people, and Bill Walker [William Walker], and you know, on and on and on. I, those, particularly those who were older than me, I knew about them when I was at the Art Institute. And in our--quote--"activism" at the Art Institute, the handful of black students I mentioned were, that were students there, lobbied the school for--(unclear)--you need to get some black instructors here. And of course, the first thing they say, "We don't know no black artists." Oh, I do, we do. And so we just, we just pull it a lit--you know, we went from Jeff [HM Jeff Donaldson], from Margaret to Jeff. And he was doing his graduate work at Northwestern [University, Chicago, Illinois] then. And of course, they brought Margaret in to teach a class, and that's fine, 'cause we, we done, we're not trying to get the whole door. We just want the doorknob now. We'll get the hinge next, we get this part; we, you know, we move on to the whole thing. And even for the fellowship competition, the way they invite jurors into judge, and we said no, you've got to have some black artists as a part of this jury. You know, you've got black graduates here, so how is it that you cannot--and there are black artists out here, so we gave them a whole list of people. And of course, they, they took [HM] David Driskell--not so much of course, but they took David Driskell 'cause he was the most prominent academic artist out there at the time. This was '71 [1971]. So--$$That's right.$$--Driskell came in and was a part of the jury. And so, all of these were people--you know, I knew of, of Aaron Douglas, and I knew of you know, Hale Woodruff, and you know, all these people. And I, and, and I knew about them because of being in, in, in, connected to Margaret Burroughs, you know, and her being the well-spring of information. And at an NCA conference, I mean, you know, Margaret had you by your collar, not by your hand, but by your shirt collar, taking you around saying: well, this is Charles White, this is Elizabeth--(unclear)--this is--(unclear)--you need to sit down here with this person and talk to them, sat us down there, and she'd go off someplace else. So we had to get engaged with these people, so they became my mentors from afar. But the ones who were up close and personal was Margaret, you know. And so, through Margaret, I mean, you know, that was like having a job, being with Margaret, 'cause she put you to work. I mean you had to go to this; you had to do that; you had do this; you had do that, and all, all it was about was giving us the stuff we need to have to go forward, you know. She was committed. And from her level of commitment, which was the same as I was speaking about my high school teachers, it became mine. Like I said, you had to choose not to be an activist if you grew up in Chicago.

Kojo Kamau

Photographer Kojo Kamau was born on October 11, 1939 in Columbus Ohio to Robert Jones, a railroad worker and Elizabeth Patterson, a housewife. Kamau grew interested in photography from an early age and bought his first camera when he was a teenager. He graduated from East High School in Columbus, Ohio in 1957 and went on to study at the Columbus Art School (now the Columbus College of Art and Design). In 1960, Kamau joined the United States Air Force where he worked as a information specialist editing the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base newspaper.

After four years of service, Kamau returned to Columbus and began working for the Ohio State University’s School of Medical Professions (now the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences) as a photographer in the medical illustration department. In 1974, Kamau began photographing one of his favorite subjects, the legendary barber and woodcutter Elijah Pierce. Kamau opened the Kojo Photo Art Studio in 1978 with his late wife, Mary Ann Williams. Williams was the host of WOSU’s TV program “Afromation.” On the set, Kamau was able to photograph many local and national celebrities. Disturbed by the negative images of African Americans in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he used his photography to show positive images of African Americans and people of the African Diaspora. Kamau first travelled to Africa in 1978, and has made eleven subsequent trips. In 1979, Kamau and Williams established the Art for Community Expression (ACE) non-profit venture to help promote African American artists. ACE was also able to sponsor trips to Africa for three local artists. In 1986, ACE opened its own gallery in Columbus, Ohio. Kamau retired from his position as chief medical photographer at the Ohio State University in 1994 and became a photography instructor at Columbus State Community College in 1997. Kamau published a book of photographs, entitled Columbus Remembered in 2006. Three years later, the Columbus Museum of Art celebrated Kamau’s seventieth birthday with an exhibition entitled, “Kojo: Fifty Years of Photography.” Kamau’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Metropolitan Library and the Columbus Foundation. His photographs were exhibited throughout the United States, including the Indianapolis Art Center, Dillard University, Bowling Green State University, Northern Kentucky University, Ohio Wesleyan University, Akron University, Ohio University, the Chicago Center of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. His work was also exhibited internationally at the Gallery 44 Center for Contemporary photography in Toronto, Canada; during Culturefest ‘93 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa; and the Central Bank of the Bahamas in Nassau, Bahamas.

Kamau was recognized numerous times for his photography and commitment to the community. He received the 2006 Ohioanna Library Career Award and the 2004 Columbus Winterfair Award of Excellence. Kamau was a member of the Columbus Museum of Art and Ohio Designer Craftsmen. He lived in Columbus, Ohio.

Kojo Kamau was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 5, 2012.

Kamau passed away on December 12, 2016 at age 77.

Accession Number

A2012.107

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/5/2012

Last Name

Kamau

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Occupation
Schools

East High School

Columbus College of Art and Design

Garfield Elementary School

Roosevelt Junior High School

Beatty Park Elementary School

Franklin Junior High School

Mt. Vernon Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Kojo

Birth City, State, Country

Columbus

HM ID

KAM03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

Always Remember What You Do Today Is Tomorrow's History.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

10/11/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Columbus

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pudding (Bread)

Death Date

12/12/2016

Short Description

Photographer Kojo Kamau (1939 - 2016 ) opened the Kojo Photo Art Studio in 1978 and founded the Art for Community Expression (ACE) non-profit in 1979.

Employment

United States Air Force

Ohio State University’s School of Allied Medical Professions

Kojo Photo Art Studio

Columbus State Community College

Call and Post

Columbus Children's Hospital

Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:7618,199:8134,209:9149,234:20104,397:20832,405:21378,411:37802,555:51778,650:53546,675:55002,691:61663,729:62572,739:65097,774:70737,808:71205,813:72375,822:82920,877:94500,954:94915,961:95330,967:97230,984:98335,1006:98760,1012:105394,1087:105880,1094:106285,1103:106933,1116:107257,1121:108148,1134:111090,1152:112152,1162:121030,1274:121430,1279:121830,1284:122230,1289:125680,1299:126020,1308:132272,1382:134846,1422:136328,1459:136640,1464:136952,1469:138122,1488:138434,1493:138746,1498:139292,1522:141008,1549:149315,1641:156905,1722:159950,1756:160610,1770:162865,1796:167264,1872:167596,1883:168841,1900:169837,1914:172850,1922:176766,2003:177834,2024:180771,2133:183708,2181:195603,2321:196671,2340:198362,2437:211395,2531:212245,2545:212755,2552:213860,2575:214285,2581:214710,2588:218114,2620:220247,2656:245947,3022:246970,3034:252735,3069:252995,3074:259571,3146:260550,3162:265774,3217:266064,3223:266296,3228:266818,3241:267050,3246:267282,3251:267572,3257:267804,3262:269330,3267:286549,3459:287060,3467:294220,3554$0,0:33190,398:34710,403:35190,411:40310,509:41190,562:41670,569:42070,575:45350,631:45990,642:56120,727:59504,737:62024,754:62509,760:63188,769:64837,790:65613,797:66292,805:66971,814:68232,832:69008,843:70463,862:74602,877:74966,882:75330,887:77241,917:79061,936:80517,958:82974,988:84339,1007:84703,1012:95444,1121:95796,1126:99864,1162:100386,1169:105654,1214:108413,1249:108858,1255:111020,1260:111494,1268:114496,1319:115839,1344:116234,1350:116787,1359:119078,1401:119473,1407:126306,1464:126834,1471:131697,1528:132361,1538:133108,1548:135764,1586:136594,1598:138918,1635:141408,1680:142321,1690:151770,1769:155000,1816:155950,1829:165918,1928:171064,2056:173056,2156:173471,2162:173803,2167:178310,2183:179486,2204:179976,2210:180368,2215:182524,2246:182916,2251:187653,2276:188139,2283:190902,2313:194550,2359:195030,2365:196470,2413:212934,2588:215457,2665:215892,2671:221025,2756:224936,2771:226615,2796:230995,2916:231506,2932:233331,2963:234134,2975:234718,2989:235229,2998:238076,3037:242868,3068:243900,3084:244330,3090:245620,3109:252988,3196:253356,3204:257910,3232
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kojo Kamau's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kojo Kamau lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kojo Kamau describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kojo Kamau describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kojo Kamau describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kojo Kamau talks about his family members' professions

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kojo Kamau talks about his brother and stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kojo Kamau remembers his homes in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kojo Kamau describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Kojo Kamau recalls his childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kojo Kamau describes his early interest in photography

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kojo Kamau remember his early educational experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kojo Kamau remembers Garfield Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kojo Kamau describes his early influences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kojo Kamau remembers his junior high school experiences in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kojo Kamau talks about his coursework at East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kojo Kamau remembers his radio teacher at East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kojo Kamau remembers his extracurricular activities at East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kojo Kamau remembers working for the newspaper companies in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kojo Kamau talks about his employment prospects after high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kojo Kamau remembers his stepfather

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kojo Kamau recalls his position at the Columbus Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kojo Kamau talks about his photographs of Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kojo Kamau recalls the African American photographers in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kojo Kamau describes his decision to enlist in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kojo Kamau talks about his newspaper position at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kojo Kamau describes his experiences of racial discrimination in South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kojo Kamau remembers segregation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kojo Kamau recalls working as medical photographer at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kojo Kamau talks about his volunteer work at the Call and Post

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kojo Kamau remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kojo Kamau talks about his photographs of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Kojo Kamau remembers photographing Roland Kirk

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Kojo Kamau remembers his wife's television show, 'Afromation'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kojo Kamau describes Art for Community Expression

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kojo Kamau talks about the African immigrant community in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kojo Kamau remembers Elijah Pierce

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kojo Kamau talks about the black artists in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kojo Kamau describes his artistic philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Kojo Kamau talks about digital photography

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Kojo Kamau reflects upon his wife's legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Kojo Kamau talks about the arts community in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Kojo Kamau talks about his exhibit, 'Kojo: Fifty Years in Photographs'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Kojo Kamau reflects upon the response to his photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Kojo Kamau talks about his teaching position at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Kojo Kamau reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Kojo Kamau describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Kojo Kamau shares his advice to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Kojo Kamau talks about his son

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Kojo Kamau describes The King Arts Complex in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Kojo Kamau describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

2$1

DATitle
Kojo Kamau describes his experiences of racial discrimination in South Carolina
Kojo Kamau describes Art for Community Expression
Transcript
So did, so were you stationed there the whole time in Myrtle Beach [Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina]?$$I was, yeah the whole time I was stationed at Myrtle Beach.$$Okay, so that's like a couple of years right and?$$It was three years and ten months.$$Okay, so--$$The base was fine. It was after you left the base that's a whole different experience back in the '60s [1960s].$$Yeah, so this is South Carolina--$$Right.$$--and, okay well tell us, well did you have any incidents when you left the base that you--?$$No, I, I, well yeah I--at the time I didn't know. The, the newspaper, I worked with a civilian printing company okay, and my last day on the job, the last day that I went to, to the printing company, the publisher called me into his office and, and told me how I handled myself very well when his crew walked out on, on me. And I didn't, I did, at the time I didn't understand what had happened, but what he had told me is that, when I first came on the job, which would have been three years and ten months earlier, his crew did not want to work with me, but I wasn't aware of that. I knew what happened was when I walked in, everybody walked out, but I thought maybe I walked in during lunchtime or something (laughter), and I was naive and then, then they came back. So, what had happened was, they, they didn't want to work with me, and well I guess he told them was that, "We have a contract with the [U.S.] Air Force, and if we want this contract we had to work with whoever they send," and they had never worked with anybody that looked like me before. And so, but I wasn't aware of that and I, I off- at the time I was thinking well what if I had known that from the beginning. What I was told that, I was only supposed to deal with one person. I didn't have any problem with that. I didn't come to deal with the whole crew. So, when they said that, that was nothing unusual to me because that's how being in the [U.S.] military, that's how you think anyhow you got one person that you, you know, report to, not everybody. So, that was, that was shocking to me. The last day that I was there I found that out.$$That's interesting that they thought they were insulting you and you didn't know they (laughter)--$$I was, they must have thought I was nuts or something, 'cause I was treating everybody you know like we're all friends (laughter).$$Okay. It just never occurred to you that they would act like that in South Carolina, they would--?$$No. I mean I knew that happened. I mean, it's like the first time--I always remember this one. The first time I went downtown and, and you know about this moving over to let white people pass and stuff and I had my uniform on and, and this older white gentleman was walking towards me and, and I'm thinking am I supposed to get out the, I'm not getting off the sidewalk. So, I just kept on walking, you know, and he spoke to me (laughter). So, it was kind of okay (laughter), how you doing, and so being in the military you were treated a little differently than you know civilian townspeople were treated.$$Okay.$$A little differently.$$Yeah. They would expect anybody that was raised there to follow all those rules and those--$$Yeah. But there were some, at the same time there were some airmen who, they, they would, they got in trouble getting off the bus. You know 'cause they refused to adapt to whatever was going on, and they would get, they would really get kicked out the service before you even got to the base, which wasn't fair, but you know that's the way it was.$Tell us about Elijah Pierce.$$Okay, can, but can I take, are we gonna go back to 1970?$$We can.$$Okay, I think we lo- left off at I opened Kojo Photo Art Studio [Kojo Photo Art Studio, Columbus, Ohio].$$That's '78 [1978] right.$$Seventy-eight, '78 [1978], yeah '78 [1978]. Okay and then when I opened Kojo Photo Arts Studio I had quit the university [The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio], so that gave me time to do some things I wanted to do. And one of the things I wanted to do was go to Africa, and Mary Ann [Kamau's wife, Mary Ann Williams] and I had talked about what we would like to do in the future. My thing was to open up my studio, and her thing was to get her Ph.D. So, she got her Ph.D. and I opened up the studio in June of 1978. We heard about an opportunity to go to Africa shortly after we opened, and so we both wrote proposals to go to Africa, and we both were funded to go to Africa. So, I went to Africa for three weeks. It was a three week study tour. I shot photographs, and I come back and I presented my photographs of the trip to Africa. And because of our experience going to Africa, we felt that any artist who wanted to go to Africa should be able to go to Africa. So, we had a friend, Aminah, and we told Aminah about this trip to Africa and how she needed to go to Africa and that what we wanted to do was raise funds to help her get to Africa because we know it would have an impact on her art, on her artwork. So, we raised enough money to send Aminah to Africa. From that experience, we started a nonprofit organization called Art for Community Expression, which was, the mission was to assist artists, African American artists to get the work into mainstream basically and to go to Africa. And so we sent, we were able to send three artists to Africa, Aminah, Larry Winston Collins, and Charles Dillard all went to Africa and then the following year they exhibited at Art for Community Expression Gallery [Columbus, Ohio] (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Now this is Aminah Robinson we're talking about right?$$Beg your pardon?$$Aminah Robinson we're talking about.$$Yes.$$Okay.$$Yes, Aminah.$$And so where did the money come from for the--$$What?$$Where did the money come from for the trips?$$The money come from the commu- one, the Thomas Foundation [ph.] had funds to help send an artist to Africa, and so we used their funds and we raised money and the artist raised money. So, it was like one third of each of those entities would raise funds to help the artist go to Africa.$$Okay, that's a good--now is the organ- so you were able to send three artists to Africa, but (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right. We sent three artists to Africa and then our focus kind of changed a little bit, because we had an opportunity to open up a gallery in the Short North [Short North Arts District, Columbus, Ohio], which was a new area for--that was developing up there. So, we were one of the first galleries to open in the building in which we were located, which was 772 North High Street in the Short North and now that's the place to be the first weekend, the first Saturday of every month they have what they call Gallery Hop, and the streets are just full of people every first Saturday.

Queen Brooks

Artist Queen Brooks was born in Columbus, Ohio on April 23, 1943 to Hattie Owens and Pomp Brooks. She graduated from East High School in 1971. After working for Central Ohio Transit Authority, Brooks apprenticed under Columbus photographer Kojo Kamau and began working at the J. Ashburn Jr. Youth Center as an arts and crafts instructor in 1980. While at the Ashburn Youth Center, Brooks discovered the art of pyrography or wood burning. Brooks then went back to school and graduated from Ohio State University with her B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees in art in 1990 and 1992, respectively. In 1993, Brooks won the Lila Wallace, Reader’s Digest International Artist Award, which granted her a residency in the French port city of Abidjan in the Republic of the Ivory Coast, West Africa. Brooks then served as an adjunct professor in art instruction at Otterbein University from 1995 to 2002 and then at Ohio Dominican University from 2002 to 2006. In 2008, Brooks was hired as the lead artist for the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Art in the Houseprogram.

Her work has been featured in Essence magazine and twice in the International Review of African American Art, and other publications. Brooks also created the portal entrance for the Kwanzaa Playground, Ohio’s first African-centered playground in Columbus, Ohio. Through a project grant from the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, Brooks, working with middle and high school students, designed and painted a mural at Columbus’ Krumm park area.

Brooks’ art has been exhibited at numerous sites throughout Ohio, and her works are in collections across the United States and in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa.

Her work is among collections held in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio Dominican and Otterbein universities as well as the King Art Complex, Columbus, Ohio.

Brooks has also won numerous awards for her artwork, including the Ohioana Career Award in 2008, the highest recognition bestowed on an artist in the state of Ohio. She has earned distinction the Arts Freedom Award designee and an Arts Midwest National Endowment of the Arts Award in 2004 and 1994, respectively. Brooks also won the Excellence in the Arts Award from Ohio State University.

Queen Brooks was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 3, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.082

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/3/2012

Last Name

Brooks

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

The Ohio State University

Central State University

Garfield Elementary School

St. Mary's South

St. Dominic's Elementary School

East High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Queen

Birth City, State, Country

Columbus

HM ID

BRO53

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Angeles, California

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

4/23/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Columbus

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Ribs)

Short Description

Visual artist Queen Brooks (1943 - ) received numerous awards for her artwork, including the Ohioana Career Award, the highest recognition bestowed on an artist in the State of Ohio.

Employment

Greater Columbus Arts Council

Ohio Dominican University

Otterbein University

J. Ashburn Jr. Youth Center

The University of Rio Grande

Art Genesis

Kojo Photo Art Studio

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Queen Brooks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks describes the Blackberry Patch community in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks describes her mother's education and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks talks about her father's military service in World War I

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks remembers her paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks talks about the origin of her name

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Queen Brooks describes her household

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks remembers her parents' boarders

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks remembers being molested at the Pythian Theater in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks recalls her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks recalls her influences at St. Dominic's School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks describes her childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes her early art education

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks describes East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Queen Brooks recalls her influences at East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Queen Brooks remembers her involvement in the Girls Athletic Association

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Queen Brooks recalls her preparation for college

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Queen Brooks remembers her first commissioned artwork

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Queen Brooks recalls enrolling at Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Queen Brooks talks about the birth of her son

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks talks about her experiences of childhood sexual abuse

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks recalls her employment after college

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks remembers meeting Kojo Kamau

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks recalls her mentors at the Kojo Photo Art Studio in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks remembers the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks talks about her commitment to her art

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks recalls her decision to attend art school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes her artistic influences

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks talks about the lack of black arts education

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Queen Brooks remembers The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Queen Brooks talks about Barbara Chavous

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks describes the network of African American artists in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks recalls opening the Art Genesis gallery in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks describes her transition from photography to mixed media art

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks talks about her philosophy of art

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks talks about the black aesthetic

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks describes the themes of her artwork

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks talks about the financial aspects of being an artist

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes the influence of African American folk art

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks recalls her trip to Cote d'Ivoire

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks recalls her experiences in Cote d'Ivoire, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks recalls her experiences in Cote d'Ivoire, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks recalls her research on the crafts of Cote d'Ivoire

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her experiences in Cote d'Ivoire

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Queen Brooks recalls her teaching positions

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Queen Brooks shares her plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Queen Brooks describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her family, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Queen Brooks reflects upon her family, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Queen Brooks recalls her father's death

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Queen Brooks recalls her mother's opinion of her career

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Queen Brooks describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Queen Brooks narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
Queen Brooks remembers meeting Kojo Kamau
Queen Brooks describes her transition from photography to mixed media art
Transcript
So you were, you were basically working, raising your son [Leslie Brooks] and--$$Working and raising my son.$$--and were, were you doing artwork at all during this period of time?$$Not initially. I didn't start doing artwork until after I met Kojo.$$Okay. So, so when did you meet Kojo?$$Let me see, it had to--let's see, it had to be around 1970, 1969, '70, [1970]. I think it was 1970.$$Okay, and--well tell us about what happened? How, how did meet him and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Okay. After I was injured, I was living on my own and my son was--he was on his own pretty much. I saw an article in the paper about Kojo and he was [HistoryMaker] Kojo Kamau was a photographer and I saw an article in the paper about him and so I got out of bed and I decided to go see, you know, see this gallery that he was at. So I went by and I kept looking in the window and I went there like three days and looked in the window and never went in and that--from that experience I know how people can be intimidated by art, by something that they're not quite familiar with and so--because I was--I wasn't familiar with it. I was just so curious because he was black and he was in the paper. And he had these pictures from Africa and, you know, so I just went to see it. So he came out and he said, "Why don't you come in?" And I said, "I don't have any money." And he said he said, "You don't need money to look at pictures." And I said, "You don't?" He said, "Not in the art gallery, you just come in and look at pictures." And from that time on I went to the gallery every day. I sat around and I talked to him and then he gave me a job and he said, "Well, you wanna assist me in the darkroom?" And I said, "Sure." So I started as his assistant and then I started to take care of his gallery [Kojo Photo Art Studio, Columbus, Ohio].$$(OFF CAMERA DISCUSSION)$$Now tell us a little bit about who Kojo Kamau is?$$Okay. Kojo Kamau is a wonderful person. He's a gentlemen, soft spoken, extremely knowledgeable about his community, (unclear) photographer, a friend to everybody and a stranger to no one, a welcoming person. He's a--he started the first--okay he had the first black, African American whatever art gallery and it was the first place that African American artists could go gather and meet each other, converse about art and show our work to the public. He made no distinction between the kinds of work we did. He loved fine art, he loved folk art. He just loved art, he didn't care whether it was photography or painting. And his wife--he--then he was married to Mary Ann Williams who was a professor at Ohio State [The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio], and she was into poetry, and there was another--Anna Bishop who was a living legend at the time, was a poet. Her and Mary Ann Williams were very close, and they spent a lot of time at the gal- at, at the gallery. Barbara Chavous was a, a well known artist, well known, Aminah [Aminah Robinson] is well known in Columbus [Ohio]--Aminah. But, at the time she was just a young artist like myself, and Barbara Chavous was the, the one that was the noted black artist here. And they would all come together. We'd come together and Kojo would just have a place for us to be welcomed in, you know, can collaborate and just, you know, encourage one another.$You got your B.F.A. from Ohio State [The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio] in '92 then you got your M.F.A.--$$No, I got my B.F.A. in '90 [1990].$$Ninety [1990], okay, all right.$$And my (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) The M.F.A.--$$In '92 [1992].$$In '92 [1992], okay, all right.$$I do know those two for sure.$$Okay, all right, all right, 1992. Okay, so we're straight now. So, what, what--now in terms of your artwork--I mean how, how did it progress it? What did you start doing or working on and, and how did it progress?$$I started as a photographer, and it evolved into wood burnings because I started to--I was working at J. Ashburn Youth Center [J. Ashburn Jr. Youth Center, Columbus, Ohio] even while I was going to school, while I was in college and someone gave me some art burn- some wood burning tools for the kids to use. And the kids didn't wanna use it (laughter) they--it was like it's too slow, they might get burnt, you know, they didn't have the patience so at six--let's see, I worked from three to nine [o'clock]. And at six o'clock all the little people that I worked with left and they had to leave, and it was supposed to from six to nine was supposed to be for the teenagers, and the young adults. Well the teenagers didn't wanna do art. They wanted to be in the gym. The boys wanted to do gym and the girls wanted to watch the boys do gym, so I had to be there regardless of who was in the room. I had to keep it open so I started to, you know, just play with the wood burning instruments because I had time. And it evolved into an art form for me. Now wood burning instruments are usually used in--for crafts or like--basically it's an art form with people that work on ducks. Those little ducks.$$Decoys?$$Decoys, yeah. There's an art form that they used that with, so it's like a craft. But I just started to create images and burn the images into wood as if I was drawing them. So it evolved. I, I got a more sophisticated art burning tool, and I just went on from there. And then the wood burning--I just started to do paintings and drawings, and then the paintings led to assemblages and, and so I'm a mixed media artist now. I just work in all medias and I put them all together however they'll work for me. My thing is one medium just can't speak to everything that I wanna say.$$Okay.$$So I choose the best medium for whatever it is that I'm trying to express.

Florence Farley

Politician and university professor Florence Saunders Farley was born on May 28, 1928 in Roanoke, Virginia to Neoda and Stacious Saunders. She attended Harrison Elementary School in Roanoke. After graduating as the salutatorian of her class from Lucy Addison High School in 1946, Farley graduated from Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) with her B.S. degree in psychology and her M.S. degree in educational psychology in 1950 and 1954, respectively. In 1951, Farley was commissioned in the United States Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a second lieutenant, and became the first African American female training officer at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Farley served as Chief Psychologist at Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, and was the first African American clinically licensed, by examination, psychologist in the state of Virginia. Farley then joined the faculty at Virginia State where she taught graduate and undergraduate students for over forty years and also served as the chair of the department of psychology. Farley obtained her Ph.D. degree in psychology in 1977 from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Farley also began her political career in 1973 when she was the first woman elected to the Petersburg City Council and became a member of Virginia’s first majority black city council. Farley won re-election in 1978 and 1982. In 1984, after the resignation of Mayor R. Wilson Cheely, Farley became the first female mayor of Petersburg and the first African American woman to become mayor of a Virginia city.

From 2002 to 2006, Farley served on the Petersburg School Board and held the post of vice chair during her time on the school board. Farley has also received acclaim as a textile artist, exhibiting her needlework in libraries and museums across the state. In 2010, Farley was recognized by The Library of Virginia as an “African American Trailblazer in Virginia History.” Farley maintains an independent psychology practice in Petersburg.

Florence Farley was interviewed was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 10, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.019

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/10/2012

Last Name

Farley

Middle Name

S.

Schools

Kent State University

Virginia State University

Harrison School

Lucy Addison High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Florence

Birth City, State, Country

Roanoke

HM ID

FAR06

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Casinos

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

5/28/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Petersburg

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans (Pinto)

Short Description

Visual artist, psychology professor, and mayor Florence Farley (1928 - ) was the first woman to be elected to a city council seat in Petersburg, Virginia and the first African American woman to become mayor of a Virginian city.

Employment

Virginia State University

Petersburg (Va.)

Women's Army Auxiliary Corps

Central State Hospital

Favorite Color

Pink

Timing Pairs
0,0:747,9:1909,42:7138,176:13530,279:13860,286:23140,442:28036,502:29071,520:30589,551:30865,556:34246,673:49491,851:50915,887:53478,901:68116,1083:68845,1094:69169,1099:70546,1124:75130,1153:75850,1195:79168,1233:79573,1239:80464,1252:84514,1329:86377,1362:87430,1379:87754,1384:88888,1401:96928,1453:97396,1461:101950,1512:102350,1518:104750,1548:105790,1563:107870,1603:110350,1659:115493,1691:115801,1696:118034,1728:118496,1735:121499,1802:121961,1809:122269,1814:130567,1905:133390,1919:139299,1983:139931,1998:141195,2023:141827,2034:148634,2139:152372,2191:163910,2370$0,0:800,20:1840,40:3040,60:7040,146:7360,151:10800,208:12320,290:19869,335:20760,396:21084,401:22542,427:26154,456:26569,462:27994,472:28379,478:32229,553:38076,668:38622,676:39012,682:39636,713:40182,721:40572,727:42600,792:45486,846:45876,852:46266,858:46578,863:55110,939:56510,969:56930,976:58820,1010:63160,1124:64140,1141:64700,1152:66100,1189:70340,1200:76643,1265:77820,1278:78783,1290:79211,1295:83664,1324:85932,1356:86337,1362:88767,1452:89172,1458:91602,1476:92088,1483:100888,1574:105400,1670:110584,1739:110968,1744:118120,1783:122232,1816:123365,1830:124086,1836:124807,1845:127955,1865:128480,1874:142684,2070:143316,2082:144422,2098:144817,2104:145212,2110:148970,2129:150330,2156:151290,2169:151690,2175:159050,2358:164545,2404:168172,2424:168916,2435:170497,2455:176821,2548:181238,2584:182894,2607:183538,2616:183906,2621:184550,2630:184918,2635:185562,2643:189865,2691:190205,2696:190545,2701:191225,2710:196410,2817:196835,2823:197345,2830:198790,2846:199300,2854:203870,2894:204255,2900:204717,2908:205410,2922:205718,2930:206719,2950:207874,2973:215652,3056:219864,3109:221646,3153:222051,3159:222456,3165:222861,3171:232540,3299:235005,3360:235430,3367:235940,3375:237750,3380
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Florence Farley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Florence Farley lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Florence Farley describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Florence Farley talks about the origin of her maternal relatives' names

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Florence Farley describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Florence Farley talks about her family's homeownership

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Florence Farley describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Florence Farley recalls her father's militant views of the South

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Florence Farley describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Florence Farley describes her relationship with her maternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Florence Farley talks about her community in Roanoke, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Florence Farley remembers the Harrison School in Roanoke, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Florence Farley talks about her academic experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Florence Farley remembers Lucy Addison High School in Roanoke, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Florence Farley remembers the segregated movie theaters in Roanoke, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Florence Farley talks about her favorite films

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Florence Farley describes her early interest in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Florence Farley recalls her aspiration to attend college

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Florence Farley remembers her influential teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Florence Farley describes her graduation from Lucy Addison High School in Roanoke, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Florence Farley talks about Negro History Week at Lucy Addison High School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Florence Farley recalls working part time at Burrell Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Florence Farley talks about the relocation of Virginia State College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Florence Farley describes her first impressions of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Florence Farley recalls changing her major to psychology

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Florence Farley describes her favorite psychology professors

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Florence Farley talks about her job prospects after graduating from Virginia State College

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Florence Farley describes her social activities in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Florence Farley remembers the presidents of Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Florence Farley recalls teaching at the Bellevue School in Hollins, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Florence Farley recalls joining the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Florence Farley describes her experiences in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Florence Farley recalls her master's degree program at Virginia State College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Florence Farley remembers Vernon Johns, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Florence Farley remembers Vernon Johns, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Florence Farley talks about the public school shutdown in Prince Edward County, Virginia, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Florence Farley talks about the public school shutdown in Prince Edward County, Virginia, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Florence Farley remembers the Crownsville State Hospital in Crownsville, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Florence Farley describes her experiences at the Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Florence Farley describes her experiences at the Central State Hospital, in Petersburg, Virginia, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Florence Farley describes the psychiatric hospitals of the 1950s

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Florence Farley describes the conditions at Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Florence Farley recalls her reason for resigning from Central State Hospital

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Florence Farley remembers her early teaching experiences at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Florence Farley talks about the founding of the Association of Black Psychologists, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Florence Farley talks about the founding of the Association of Black Psychologists, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Florence Farley describes the early accomplishments of the Association of Black Psychologists

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Florence Farley talks about the civil rights protests in Petersburg, Virginia, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Florence Farley talks about the civil rights activities in Petersburg, Virginia, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Florence Farley remembers the black elected officials in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Florence Farley recalls obtaining a doctoral degree at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Florence Farley talks about her experiences as mayor of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Florence Farley describes the community of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Florence Farley remembers her mayoralty of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Florence Farley describes her introduction to city politics in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Florence Farley recalls serving as a professor during her mayoralty of Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Florence Farley talks about her students at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Florence Farley describes the history of psychiatric drugs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Florence Farley describes the history of psychiatric drugs, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Florence Farley talks about the prevalence of mental illness in the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Florence Farley describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Florence Farley reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Florence Farley reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Florence Farley recalls learning to cross stitch

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Florence Farley describes her family

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Florence Farley recalls her mother's reaction to her dismissal from Virginia State College

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Florence Farley talks about her pendant necklace from Africa

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Florence Farley recalls the challenges of integrating higher education in the State of Virginia

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Florence Farley narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$5

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Florence Farley talks about her family's homeownership
Florence Farley describes the psychiatric hospitals of the 1950s
Transcript
Did your grandmother [Lula Ware] and your mother [Neoda Ware Saunders] own their own land? I mean, did they, I mean did your grandmother own the land that she--?$$Oh, when my grandmother, as I said, she moved to Roanoke [Virginia], and she brought the family to Roanoke. So my mother grew up in Danville [Virginia] until she was I guess maybe ten or twelve years old, and then she came to Roanoke--okay, my mother moved to Roanoke. And my grandmother bought--and my uncle [Alfred Ware], see, and my grandmother lived together. So, my uncle worked full time for the railroad [Norfolk and Western Railway]. So he bought his home, he bought the home, and that's where my grandmother and he lived. And then right around the, on the next block--well, her house was on the corner, and if you go around the block, that was where my--she bought another house, and in that house she put my mother on the first floor and my aunt and uncle on the upstairs. So, she had her two families there, and she was right on the corner. She could watch the house, you know. We could as we--as my mother had more children and all, but my mother, after she married my father [Stacious Saunders], they moved to Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania]. And so my older brothers and sisters, some of my older brothers and sisters, were born in Pittsburgh. My grandmother, of course, was very unhappy, but she just couldn't get her back to Roanoke. And so my mother and father had a home in Pittsburgh and it caught fire and it burned all of their possessions. So that gave my grandmother an opportunity to get her hands back on my mother. So she brought her back, it was supposed to be temporary, to Roanoke, and they came back to Roanoke and stayed, and that's where the rest of us were born, and that's where we lived. So she bought this house and as I said before, initially the two families lived in it. As the family started expanding, my grandmother bought another house, and my uncle and his wife and children moved from the second floor of that house into the second house that my grandmother--it was the third house then--that she bought, which was again right there in the neighborhood. But, you know, my mother and father finished paying for the house, but she was the, she was the one who started both of those houses.$$Okay.$$So, so we always lived in a house that was owned by us.$These were the days when you could, you were committed to a hospital if you were supposed to be insane or something?$$Yes, yes.$$And just kind of talk about it a little--because people don't often understand that now (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay. This--basically, you know I forget that, I do. I forget time. It was, Central State [Central State Hospital, Petersburg, Virginia] was the only hospital in Virginia that blacks could go. Usually in every state you would have a psychiatric facility or a hospital for the severely mentally ill in that region. So we had Southwest Hospital [sic. Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute, Marion, Virginia], Western State Hospital [Staunton, Virginia], Eastern State Hospital [Williamsburg, Virginia]. So whites had, could go to a hospital that more or less was close in their region, which meant that their relatives could come and visit them and so forth. Blacks all had to come to Central State. So no matter where you lived, if you lived far west, southwest Virginia, you had to come all the way down to Petersburg [Virginia] if you had a relative who was committed to the hospital. When I was there, the last day I was there, the patient population was about forty-five hundred. It was, at the time before, this is the time before tranquilizers. I was working at Central, Crownsville State Hospital [Crownsville Hospital Center, Crownsville, Maryland] when the first drugs came. There were no drugs for mental illness. The patients were given electroshock therapy, they were given lobotomies--it was like if you ever saw the movie 'Snake Pit' ['The Snake Pit'], it was 'Snake Pit', okay. And we worked, we were there, we worked. The odors--like it was not clean, they were not clean. Patients were hurdled into rooms and just seated, just there all day long, very few things going on. I will say this: before I left, I had some of the newsletters. We'd even gotten newsletters out. And it described the activities that we were able to do. I stayed at Central State seven years and we were able, I was able to pull in young black psychologists from different, who had gone to historically black schools [historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)], who were not trained as clinicians. But I trained them on the spot, and trained them how to be clinical psychologists right there at the hospital. And so we made, things changed, but this was a transitional period also where they were moving from what I would call a snake pit kind of environment to a more hospital like environment. And the patients now, I think, they may have three or four hundred patients at the hospital. But they had, it was over four thousand patients the last day I was there. That was the census report, we got a census report every day. But all black people came there, and some of them, they were in locked wards. I was there when we first decided that we would have what you call unlocked wards. Some patients hadn't touched the ground in twenty-five years, but when we unlocked those wards, we let them be able to walk on the dirt surface. They didn't even know, see, how a human being would walk on the ground when they had never walked on anything but those wooden floors in those buildings. They had to change their whole gait, their whole way of walking, you know. So it was quite, quite a time.

Lee Ransaw

Fine artist and art professor Lee Ransaw, was born on March 24, 1938, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Sylvia and Lee Lester. In 1955, Ransaw received his high school diploma from Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. He later attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where he earned his B.A. degree in art education in 1962 and his M.A. degree in fine arts in 1966. In 1973, Ransaw received his Ed.D. degree from Illinois State University.

While Ransaw was a graduate student at Illinois State University, he travelled to Nashville, Tennessee where he met artist and scholar David Driskell. This visit inspired Ransaw to begin collecting artwork for his private art collection. After taking courses at Pratt Institute in New York, Ransaw moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he taught African art and Afro-American art at Emory University. In 1979, Ransaw was hired at Morris Brown College as an art professor where he painted the Centennial Mural which depicted the history of the college. The mural was considered to be a national project and was commissioned by the Atlanta Coca Cola Bottling Company. In 2002, Ransaw along with Lamar Wilson, director of Ruth Hall Hodges Art Gallery, founded The National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (NAAHBCU) on the campus of Morris Brown College. Ransaw, then dean of arts and letters, and chair of the fine art department at the college, initially held a statewide exhibit that featured the artwork of the art faculty from Georgia based HBCUs. NAAHBCU held its first major traveling exhibition entitled Visions From Within at the James Kemp Gallery at The Black Academy of Arts & Letters in Dallas, Texas and featured thirty artists. In 2004, Ransaw was hired as an adjunct art professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Ramsaw retired as president of NAAHBCU in 2010 and served as chairman of the organization.

Among his many honors and awards were The Distinguished United Negro College Fund Scholars Award in Washington, D.C., The Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Ford Foundation Fellowship, and a Bronze Jubilee Award for artistic achievement given by PBS in Atlanta, Georgia.

Lee Ransaw was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April, 19, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.026

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/19/2011

Last Name

Ransaw

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

A.

Schools

Shortridge High School

Indiana University

Illinois State University

George Washington Carver Elementary School 87

Pulaski Elementary School

Indiana University Northwest

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lee

Birth City, State, Country

Little Rock

HM ID

RAN09

Favorite Season

May

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern France

Favorite Quote

Be Well, Do Good Work, And Keep In Touch.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

3/24/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Fine artist and art professor Lee Ransaw (1938 - ) was the dean of arts and letters and chair of the fine arts department at Morris Brown College and founder of The National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges.

Employment

Emory University

Morris Brown College

National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges

Spelman College

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lee Ransaw's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw describes his father's upbringing and education

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw remembers his stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw remembers moving to Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw talks about his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw remembers living with his maternal relatives

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lee Ransaw recalls attending East Pulaski School in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lee Ransaw talks about his early interest in art

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lee Ransaw describes his earliest memories of religion

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Lee Ransaw describes his neighborhood in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Lee Ransaw talks about housing segregation in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw recalls attending George Washington Carver Elementary School 87 in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw remembers his favorite subjects in school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw recalls attending Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw talks about his childhood interests

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw recalls attending University United Methodist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw describes his neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw recalls his teachers and classmates

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes race relations in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw talks about African American representation in the media

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lee Ransaw recalls his decision to attend John Herron Art Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw describes his mother's family background

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw recalls transferring to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw describes race relations at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw remembers his professors at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw describes his art education at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw recalls his experiences at Indiana University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw remembers his appointment to cryptologic linguist in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw recalls being stationed with the U.S. Army in Venice, Italy

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw describes his role as a cryptologic linguist in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw recalls his first teaching job

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw remembers the deaths of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw describes his dissertation on the Wall of Respect

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw recalls his introduction to African American art

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw describes his early knowledge of the black aesthetic

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw talks about his dissertation committee, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw talks about his dissertation committee, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes his children

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw recalls being hired at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw recalls becoming department chair at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw remembers receiving a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw recalls starting his art collection

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw describes living and working in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw talks about some of his art exhibits

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw describes his improvements to the art department at Morris Brown College

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw recalls painting murals for Morris Brown College

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes his artwork, 'Dance of the Chicken Thieves'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw recalls receiving a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Lee Ransaw describes Atlanta's artistic renaissance

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Lee Ransaw talks about strategy behind collecting art

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Lee Ransaw recalls the founding of the National Black Arts Festival

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Lee Ransaw describes his work at Morris Brown College in the late 1980s

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lee Ransaw talks about organizing an exhibit for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lee Ransaw recalls founding the National Alliance of Artists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lee Ransaw reflects upon his accomplishments and fellowships

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lee Ransaw recalls helping Dan Moore, Sr. to establish the APEX Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lee Ransaw remembers painter Benny Andrews

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lee Ransaw describes the exhibit 'Coming by Force: Overcoming by Choice'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lee Ransaw talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lee Ransaw describes his wife

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Lee Ransaw shares a message for future generations of artists

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Lee Ransaw reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$2

DAStory

8$10

DATitle
Lee Ransaw recalls being stationed with the U.S. Army in Venice, Italy
Lee Ransaw recalls his decision to attend John Herron Art Institute
Transcript
So I got my assignment. Everybody got their assignments at Fort Gordon [Georgia]. Mine didn't come through. Everybody got their assignments. Some went to Vietnam and some went every place, and they didn't come to me. And they had a list of the top five or six graduates for crypto school[cryptologic school]. I was number four. The top five was supposed to go to Paris [France]. And, and four of 'em went, and I didn't go. They kept me there on post. And so I didn't know what it was, so I went to the IG, the inspector general and said, you know, "This is racism. Why didn't I get my assignment," which was a civilian status job in Paris. He said, "Well, I'm gonna look into this, we're gonna look into this and find out why you didn't get this school." So they came back with the excuse that they wanted me there on post to play basketball and play baseball. I said, "But you guys didn't know I play basketball. How you gonna put me on basketball team?" Said, "We'll cut you another assignment." So two or three weeks later--they didn't tell me where they were sending me, they put me on a plane to New York. And I ended up in New York at the fort up there, I can't remember the fort. But I went there. And they had APO 221 on my, for my mail. And so I went to the post office 'cause mother [Sylvia Hall Ransaw] and everybody was asking me, "Where are you going?" And I couldn't tell 'em. So I went to APO 221, and that was Italy. I was supposed to go to Italy, and I said, "Well, that's a pretty good assignment." But in this crypto school, which is interesting, they give you a lie detector test as I said. And on this test, they'll ask you a lot of questions, and then one of the questions they came to, they said, "Have you ever cheated on a college exam before?" I said, "No." Then they went down and asked some more questions. And they came back to that same question, "Have you ever cheated on a college--," they asked it a different way. My heart started jumping, and I remembered the time that I had looked on somebody else's paper for something, and I said, "No." So we got through the test, and he unstrapped me. He got me up, and he said, "Do you have anything to say?" I said, "Oh, yeah, on that college exam, you asked me one question, I remembered I had looked on somebody else's paper." He said, "I'm glad you told me that 'cause we were about to kick you out of school" (laughter). I was about to be gone. But I got a very nice assignment in Venice, Italy, Venezia, Italy, in crypto--and where I wanted to be. That's because it's a center of art, Venice, Venezia, Florence [Italy], Rome [Italy] and I stayed over there for several years playing basketball and finished up [U.S.] military.$$Because this is the time of Vietnam, you have this really nice assignment in Italy, but did you understand about the Vietnam War? At that time, did you understand what was going on?$$I understand--I understood when I got to Italy because several of my friends that were over there got killed. And I did crypto so Red Cross would send me messages, and I'd see their names come across. And I knew these people, a lot of these people that were getting killed over there. They were down at Fort Gordon, Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri] with me. And I knew the gravity of that situation over there, and it's just fortunate I didn't get sent over there.$$Okay, and so how long were you in Italy?$$I was there for about three years.$Who helped you prepare for college? Did you know that you were definitely gonna go to college?$$I knew a long time ago that I was gonna go to college, yes, I did. I knew. And I think my role model for that, it was interesting. I had, was out playing basketball one day with the guys on the, in the community center. And one of the guys who was playing, he was very good. And I was guarding him, and we started talking, and I said, "What do you do?" And he said, "I teach at a college." And he named the college out in California that he taught at. And I said, man, this guy plays basketball and doing real well, and he's teaching at a college, a young guy like this. You know, I think I might wanna do that, you know. And that was one of the things that got in my head early in life that I wanted to do. And the other thing, I was watching a television program. And I can't think of the actor's name, but he was, the scene of his, his series was that he was a college professor. And he used to wear a sweater all the time. And he was very mild mannered, and he spoke in a very mild mannered. And I said, "Man, that's an idea. I'd sure like to do what he's doing," you know. Well, those two things kind of stuck in my head, you know, for a long time. And I said, "Well, you know, I think I'd like to go to college," you know. And I always worked towards that at that point, you know. And then the things that I learned at Shortridge [Shortridge High School, Indianapolis, Indiana] kind of more or less cemented that desire to go and, go to college.$$How did you decide what college you would go to or apply to?$$Well, the most popular college in Indiana was Indiana University [Bloomington, Indiana]. Everybody, 'cause everybody started talking it up, kids from other areas, friends, and they wanted to go to IU. And so I was in art, and I wanted to go to IU too, but my mother [Sylvia Hall Ransaw] said, "No, you're not going down there your first year. We're gonna send you here to the extension, and you can take your art courses or take some courses over to John Herron [John Herron Art Institute; Herron School of Art and Design] or someplace like that." Well, John Herron was a very fine art school. It was located there too, in Indianapolis [Indiana]. Hale Woodruff and some of the other well known artists had gone to, had been a John Herron. So that's what I did. The first year I decided--and I worked. I went out to the, the state fair, got my first job at Allis Chalmers [Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company], shining tractors. And I'd jump over the fence, go over there, go to work every day, and that gave me my first paycheck, all went toward college. Everything I started doing was directed toward college. So Mother could see that I was putting in and wanted to go that badly, she was gonna send me, but she wasn't gonna send me down on campus the first year. And it's a good thing she didn't because once I started going down there, I went down there, a lot of my friends who had gone down there partying and playing was coming back. They had flunked out. So when I went down, you know, I was pretty much prepared.$$And so what courses did you take at John Herron?$$I took still life painting, how to paint an apple so that if you put a fly on it, or paint a fly on it, it looks like it's real and all that stuff or one would be attracted to it. Those were the kind of courses I took, very varied (laughter). Then we'd go out sometimes and paint old sheds or old houses, draw 'em, and that was, that was very nice.

Howard Simmons

Commercial photographer and photojournalist Howard Simmons was born on June 11, 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His mother, Lillian, was a day worker from South Carolina while his father, Luther, was a contractor from Pennsylvania. Simmons and his older sister Margaret were often moving around as children. In 1961, Simmons graduated from Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Immediately after graduation, Simmons enlisted in the U.S. Air Force where he played French horn with Air Force service bands until 1966. While serving, he became interested in photography and began photographing arrangements he would make with various materials from the barracks.

In 1966, Simmons began working for Gateway Studios as a photo lab technician with the desire to become a commercial photographer. The following year, he compiled a portfolio and presented it to Ebony magazine where John Johnson hired him as a staff photographer. With Ebony, Simmons covered Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in Atlanta and Coretta Scott King’s subsequent rally in Washington D.C. In 1968, friend Bob Black told Simmons the Chicago Sun-Times was hiring so Simmons joined the staff doing photojournalism until 1976. In 1973, Simmons, John White, Ovie Carter, and Bob Black created the exhibit “Through The Eyes of Blackness” which displayed the everyday life of blacks.

In 1976, Simmons left the paper to become a self-employed commercial photographer. He did advertisements for Coca Cola, McDonalds, Sears, Folgers, Amoco, Kelloggs and others traveling as far as Zimbabwe and Paris. In 1980, Simmons shot the first cover for Black Family magazine and in 1983, he bought a building in Chicago and turned it into what became his favorite commercial photography studio. Simmons work is showcased on his website, HowardSimmonsPhotography.com, opened in 2009.

Simmons is married to Marva E. Simmons and together they have three children: Robbin L. Mugnaini, Tracey L. Mcghee, and Christie R. Edwards.

Howard Simmons was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 25, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.038

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/25/2010

Last Name

Simmons

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

D.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Westinghouse Academy

Crescent Elementary School

Madison Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Howard

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsburgh

HM ID

SIM09

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Chicago, Illinois

Favorite Quote

Seize The Time. Let Not The Moments Wane. So Precious Is This Day That Even Now It Slips Into Eternity.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

6/11/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Thai Food

Short Description

Photographer Howard Simmons (1943 - ) was a news photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times and Ebony magazine, who captured legends like Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Brown.

Employment

Gateway Studios

Ebony Magazine

Chicago Sun-Times

U.S. Air Force

Judge Studio

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Howard Simmons' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Howard Simmons lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Howard Simmons describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Howard Simmons talks about his maternal aunts

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Howard Simmons describes his mother's occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Howard Simmons describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Howard Simmons remembers the lawsuit against his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Howard Simmons talks about his father's resourcefulness

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Howard Simmons talks about his parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Howard Simmons describes his likeness to his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Howard Simmons remembers the death of his father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Howard Simmons talks about his family's frequent moves

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Howard Simmons talks about his sister

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Howard Simmons describes his earliest childhood memories, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Howard Simmons describes his earliest childhood memories, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Howard Simmons talks about his homes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Howard Simmons describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Howard Simmons describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Howard Simmons remembers his early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Howard Simmons describes his introduction to photography, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Howard Simmons describes his interest in the French horn

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Howard Simmons talks about talented French hornists

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Howard Simmons recalls his disinterest in sports

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Howard Simmons remembers the influence of his father

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Howard Simmons remembers joining a field band in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Howard Simmons talks about the celebrities from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Howard Simmons remembers falling ill during basic training for the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Howard Simmons describes his experiences in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Howard Simmons remembers being stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Howard Simmons describes his introduction to photography, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Howard Simmons talks about his early camera equipment

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Howard Simmons talks about the process of developing and printing photographs

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Howard Simmons reflects upon his experiences in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Howard Simmons recalls his apprenticeship at the Judge Studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Howard Simmons remembers his decision to pursue a career in photography

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Howard Simmons remembers joining the staff of Ebony magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Howard Simmons describes his photography work for Ebony magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Howard Simmons remembers photographing Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Howard Simmons remembers photographing Jim Brown on the set of 'The Riot'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Howard Simmons recalls photographing Harry Belafonte at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Howard Simmons describes his decision to leave Ebony magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Howard Simmons remembers joining the staff of the Chicago Sun-Times

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Howard Simmons describes the competitive environment of news photography

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Howard Simmons recalls his experiences as a photographer at the Chicago Sun-Times, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Howard Simmons recalls his experiences as a photographer at the Chicago Sun-Times, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Howard Simmons recalls his experiences at the Ebony Fashion Fair

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Howard Simmons talks about the emotional burden of news photography

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Howard Simmons talks about the importance of timing in news photography

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Howard Simmons describes the 'Through Eyes of Blackness' photography exhibit

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Howard Simmons remembers photographing Minister Louis Farrakhan and Elijah Muhammad

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Howard Simmons describes his transition to commercial photography

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Howard Simmons remembers joining the staff of Vince Cullers Advertising, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Howard Simmons describes his experiences as a commercial photographer

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Howard Simmons talks about his transition to digital photography

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Howard Simmons talks about the utility of digital photography

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Howard Simmons reflects upon his life and career

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Howard Simmons describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Howard Simmons reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Howard Simmons talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Howard Simmons reflects upon his gratitude to his parents

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Howard Simmons talks about his concerns for the field of photography

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Howard Simmons describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Howard Simmons describes his introduction to photography, pt. 2
Howard Simmons describes the competitive environment of news photography
Transcript
You're in the [U.S.] Air Force, you're in Biloxi, Mississippi. And you (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right.$$--then, then you went from Biloxi to?$$I was discharged from Biloxi.$$Discharged from Biloxi.$$Right. Right.$$So, did you stay in Mississippi long to savor the atmosphere there or did you--$$The joy of Mississippi?$$Yes.$$No. I--$$In 1965.$$--ran screaming from Biloxi back to Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania] and I was fortunate to be able to stay with my [maternal] aunts. That's where I stayed. My sister [Margaret Simmons Jackson] was there and so that was home for me. And I secured a job three days after discharge.$$Really? And, and what, what kind of job was it?$$It was working with an industrial photographer.$$Now, did you do any photography in the [U.S. military] service?$$Yes.$$Okay.$$As a matter of fact--$$Now, we're, we're skipping something here, so--$$Oh, okay.$$--we need to go back and, and pick this up. Now, you said on that on leave, you were on leave when you first used one of the more sophisticated cameras where you had to adjust the shutter speed and, and distance and that sort of thing.$$Right.$$And, and, and that enlightened you as to what the power of a camera might be.$$Right. And this was--I was on leave from Chanute Air Force Base [Champaign County, Illinois] and a good friend of mine had a, a camera that he borrowed, and it was a folding camera with the bellows kind--the old black cameras that folded up, you opened them up and they had the bellows, and it was adjustable, unlike the box cameras like the, the old Brownie Hawkeyes [Kodak Brownie Hawkeye] and the Brownie Starflash [Kodak Brownie Starflash] type of cameras that I had used in the past.$$Was, was it using a bigger film than 120?$$Right. It was similar to--I don't know if it was really 120, but it was almost that size. It might've been 620 film. But, I asked my friend [Devon Gaines (ph.)] if I could borrow the camera and so I knew nothing about photography, using an, an adjustable camera. So, I bought the film and I followed the instructions in the--and it comes with the film and it tells you the adjustments for bright sunlight, cloudy or inside. And so I looked on the camera and it had the shutter speed and the exposure for, you know, shutter speed and aperture. Of course, I didn't know what either of them meant. It just had the numbers and I looked on the paper, and it showed the numbers, and there's f/11, f/8 and what have you and, and for the--for the shutter speed. And so I translated that, twisted this and twisted that. And then I would guess the distance. I'm five feet from you and I would--you know, it was what's called zone focusing. You would guess and then if you were to infinity, you would put the infinity number. So, I took pictures according to the paper and I put it in the drugstore and picked it up in a day or two. There was no such thing as one hour photo then. It might've been three days. So I got my pictures back and opened it up and said, wow, look, they're sharp. They look so crisp and it, it was just as nothing I had seen before because with the box cameras with no focus, the pictures always come out milky looking. And they--it just--it looked so pretty to see them nice and sharp and, wow. I was--I bought some more film and went out and shot some more. And then I started doing little experimental things. I, I shot some things at night because I began to understand that if you change the shutter speed and left a little more--little more time and opened that little thing up (laughter), you could shoot at--with, with less light. So, I started playing around, and I got my film, my pictures back and, wow. So--I mean, I really--I was smitten. So, I returned the camera to my friend because I was going back to the base and I decided I had to get a camera, and that's the way it started.$Did [HistoryMaker] Bob Black, was he the person that kind of mentored you or helped you or, or was there someone else there? Because this is a whole new, you know, kind of thing, right?$$You just come on board and you gotta do it. Nobody mentors you, nobody trains--you're going to--going on assignment. And things are happening and--at, at Ebony, sometimes there are things you cover, too. Ebony prepared me because there, there are jobs that I've had where I've been on demonstrations and things are happening at Ebony too. But most news assignments or many news assignments were that way. But I didn't--I didn't appreciate the news photographers until I started working for the paper. And when you're working with a stable of guys and you see what these guys bring back, and sometimes you don't have time. You're out there and these guys come back from assignment. And to--see, I had more side by side with photographers. You're both--or maybe you're with a whole bunch of guys at the same assignment. So your stuff has got to compete with their stuff and you got the competition out there. And you have to come back--and your stuff is going to be in the paper with their stuff; that's the challenge. See, if I'm shooting for Ebony, I'm by myself. It's just my stuff showing in--only one in Ebony. It's not even as if t- other magazines are gonna be there. Not--no other magazines on the assign- I'm just (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Who were some of the better guys there at Sun-Times [Chicago Sun-Times]? How, how many were in the pool in the stable and who were some of the (unclear)?$$There might have been a dozen guys, you know, maybe a dozen. But, the challenge is, at that time, you had Chicago Today, you had Chicago Tribune, you had--you had the Daily News [Chicago Daily News], the Today, Tribune, Daily News, Sun-Times, and I think there was some--somebody off the paper but even--and then you had the Sengstackes' paper.$$The Defender [Chicago Defender], yeah.$$Yeah, the Defender.$$And the Reader [Chicago Reader]--$$But--$$--I guess, yeah.$$But you had--okay, if you're on an assignment, if it's real big news, everybody is going to be there, be it a, you know, morning publication, evening publication. And all the--I'm not talking about all guys in the Sun-Times--from the Sun-Times, but I'm talking about the other papers. And if you're there and everybody is shooting at the same thing, you can get blown away if somebody comes back with a fantastic picture and you don't have a fantastic picture. That's the challenge. You're competing against these guys. And there's nothing worse than to see this guy over there and you know he's got a angle or a perspective that you don't have. You know it. You know--you said, darn, man, he's got--he's over there and he's got something (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) So, so what's your--what was your strategy? You want to get there first and get--and get your--$$You may not even be there first. You may all be there at the same time, but this guy moves a certain way. Like the picture I got with the guys looking at, at, at city hall [Chicago City Hall, Chicago, Illinois]. And it's almost--and it's a great feeling when you know, I got this. You know, you say, I got this and nobody else has got it. It's a good feeling, too, when you got it and nobody else has got it. But, it's a terrible feeling when, when the other folks don't. And you know when your stuff shows up in the paper you got a great shot and the other guys were there and they didn't get that shot.

Bill Duke

Film director and actor Bill Duke was born on February 26, 1943 in Poughkeepsie, New York and is the son of Ethel Douglas Duke and William Duke, Sr. After earning his A.A. degree from Dutchess Community College, Duke became interested in the performing arts while attending Boston University, although he initially enrolled as a pre-med student. He eventually majored in theater there and then went on to earn a M.A. degree in fine arts from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Duke later enrolled in the American Film Institute (AFI).

Duke began his career as an actor in New York City theaters like The Public Theater and New Federal Theater, performing in plays such as LeRoi Jones' Slave Ship and Melvin Van Peebles’ musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. Duke’s first movie role came in 1976 when he portrayed a fierce young Black Muslim revolutionary named “Abdullah Mohammed Akbar” in Car Wash. Duke’s television directorial debut came in 1982 when he directed episodes of Knot's Landing, Falcon Crest, and Flamingo Road for Lorimar Productions. Duke's most prominent and critically acclaimed television work, however, has been his direction of teleplays for the PBS series American Playhouse including “The Killing Floor,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” and “The Meeting,” a 90-minute drama that depicted an imaginary meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. During the 1980s, Duke amassed more than 100 television directing credits, including more than 70 episodes of roughly 20 television series such as Miami Vice, Dallas, Crime Story, Cagney and Lacey and Hill Street Blues. Duke directed his first feature film in 1990, a film adaptation of Chester Himes' novel A Rage in Harlem. Duke went on to direct many other films including Deep Cover, Sister Act 2, Hoodlum and Deacons for Defense.

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Duke to the California Film Commission, which works to enhance the economic climate of the state by keeping film industry jobs in California. Duke also works with non-profit and charity organizations such as Educating Young Minds, an organization that helps inner-city students excel at school and in life. Duke is the recipient of numerous awards including the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the NAACP’s Special Award for Outstanding Achievement, SCLC’s Drum Major for Justice Film Award and a Cable Ace Award. President Bill Clinton appointed Duke to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Duke was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 19, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.115

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/19/2008

Last Name

Duke

Middle Name

Duke

Occupation
Schools

Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School

Duchess Community College

Boston University

New York University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Bill

Birth City, State, Country

Poughkeepsie

HM ID

DUK04

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

True Power Is An Individual's Ability To Move From Failure To Failure With No Loss Of Enthusiasm.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

2/26/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Actor and film director Bill Duke (1943 - ) began his theater career in Harlem. He went on to direct several television series, including 'Hill Street Blues' and 'Knots Landing,' and films, such as 'A Rage in Harlem' and 'Deep Cover.' Duke also starred in 'Car Wash,' 'American Gigolo' and 'Menace II Society.'

Employment

Negro Ensemble Company

Howard University

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:1738,22:2494,32:2998,40:5778,70:14360,182:16740,222:22160,282:30324,451:30933,460:48180,729:48761,737:49093,742:49757,751:58826,848:60650,853:64312,898:64782,904:71012,992:82704,1075:83307,1085:83977,1093:89728,1139:92636,1157:94861,1193:95484,1202:101970,1265:104366,1293:107330,1300:108698,1336:112072,1354:122159,1449:123371,1461:124179,1470:125189,1496:132572,1584:133802,1606:134458,1617:134786,1622:139175,1697:144846,1810:147886,1912:160434,2204:162540,2240:164256,2274:164646,2280:165036,2286:169856,2317:172650,2336:175706,2367:181620,2423:181840,2428:182060,2433:186080,2480:188990,2518$0,0:491,4:2849,35:3497,46:4145,54:6328,221:32040,495:40751,610:41444,624:48289,707:51860,757:61639,894:75480,1028:76240,1040:77000,1051:77304,1056:86094,1145:86616,1152:87747,1170:90770,1195:91110,1201:92835,1227:93960,1244:98111,1287:98435,1292:100784,1335:106036,1412:110356,1496:110932,1511:111724,1528:116785,1568:118995,1615:129100,1737:137666,1874:143790,1920:145640,1963:148082,2016:151290,2032:160520,2141
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bill Duke's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bill Duke lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bill Duke describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bill Duke recalls his maternal family's move to Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bill Duke describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bill Duke describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bill Duke describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bill Duke describes how he takes after his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bill Duke describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bill Duke describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bill Duke talks about his family's self-sufficiency

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers his upbringing in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bill Duke describes the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers Violet Avenue Elementary School in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bill Duke remembers his early experiences with dyslexia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bill Duke describes his early interest in writing

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bill Duke remembers Dr. James Hall

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bill Duke recalls his introduction to theater at Boston University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bill Duke remembers Lloyd Richards

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bill Duke recalls developing his skills as a director

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers his favorite film and television programs

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bill Duke describes his early theater career in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers his introduction to Hollywood's entertainment industry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his short film, 'The Hero'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bill Duke remembers co-starring with Richard Gere in 'American Gigolo'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his transition to directing

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bill Duke remembers directing 'The Killing Floor'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bill Duke recalls directing 'A Raisin in the Sun' for PBS

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers acting in 'Commando' and 'Predator'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bill Duke recalls his directorial credits in the 1990s, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers directing 'Deep Cover'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his directorial philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bill Duke reflects upon his experiences as a director

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bill Duke talks about the art of acting

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Bill Duke talks about his favorite actors

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bill Duke recalls his directorial credits in the 1990s, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bill Duke talks about his book, 'Black Light'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bill Duke describes the film 'Deacons for Defense'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bill Duke talks about the California Film Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bill Duke describes his civic involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bill Duke reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bill Duke reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Bill Duke talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Bill Duke describes how he would like to be remembered

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DATitle
Bill Duke talks about the art of acting
Bill Duke talks about his book, 'Black Light'
Transcript
--As an actor, it's a different kind of feeling. It's just--it's like writing. I'm a writer, but I don't write much anymore; it's just like too isolated for me, you know? If I get married, or I'm gonna be a writer again because I can--somebody's there, but writing is a desolate, desolate experience. People don't understand, I don't think how--writing is like--just, just you and, as they say, the tabula rosa [sic. tabula rasa]. It's that blank piece of paper, and you're writing, and you go, what the hell? What is that? You try to make it better. You don't, you don't even know if it's better; you feel it's better. That's how acting is. Acting is like--[HistoryMaker] Lloyd Richards used to say something like, it's falling into darkness backward; you just gotta trust. It's not because you're so bright or talented, but the degree of your research and preparation is important in the final analysis. See, stage fright--they call it stage fright, which you've probably seen, is this (gesture). You go on stage, and you're supposed to be John, but the actor is observing himself being John. So who's onstage? The actor and John. The writer didn't write the, the, the part for Bill and John (laughter), he just wants John (laughter), so Bill has to surrender whatever he is to John. That process of surrender is called trust, and if you cannot do that, you end up being a--kind of a mannequin-like version of John 'cause John's not there. You watching John, or pretending to be John, is there.$$Well, you know, we, we still have like certain iconic actors, I guess, that people write for them to be them playing a role, you know, in a way. I mean, I guess in the old days, like John Wayne really, you know, his parts were really written for a guy to--for John Wayne to be the, you know, the person, except for when he played Genghis Khan [in 'The Conqueror'] (laughter) (unclear) which didn't work out too well. But they, you know, they kind of write 'em for him, you know, he's just (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well yeah. And that--there's nothing wrong with that. They're called personality actors, and that's okay, and I, you know, I don't put that down. But the great actors of our time, the great actors of all time, you know, the great stage actors, the great--they play a spectrum of people from fathers to murderers, and every role they're in you believe it, you believe them. They have that facility, the ability to surrender to the craft in a way that's just phenomenal.$You published a book called 'Black Light: The African American Hero' [Paul Carter Harrison, Danny Glover and Bill Duke].$$It's a collaboration between [HistoryMaker] Danny Glover and myself.$$Okay.$$Uh-huh.$$And now what were you trying to do in that book?$$Pray--pay homage to all the people who had made it possible for me to be here, all the sacrifices they had made, all the deaths, all the, the limbs that had been cut off, all of the--coming over on this middle passage. All the not being able to go in the same bathroom, at the same water fountain, standing up for who you were and are, and--so that we could be here talking now.$$So it was like a photo essay type of book, right?$$It's, it's, it's, it's photographs, but also it's writing about the history and so on.$$Okay. Now, it's read at--that directors write history and stuff, but you, you see--you don't see yourself just as a director, I guess, in the generic sense, right?$$Well, directing--in order to direct successfully, I really think that you have to be dabbling in everything from writing to painting. I mean directorially, you're creating composition, and it's moving motion pictures. If you study the composition of still pictures, then you get an understanding of what balance is in a frame, and so you try your best to study the greatest painters of all time, which I tried to do, and to borrow from them in terms of understanding composition. 'Cause composition is not only where you place people, but composition also has to do with texture and color because someone that's way in the back can be the center of focus of the, of the frame if they have red on and everybody in the front has on white. You learn things from painting and sculpture and great writers from T.S. Eliot to, I mean to, name them, I mean you know. You, you set yourself to a standard. If you're, if you're your only standard it's kind of convoluted, but if your standard is to be as--if someone has set a mark for you and you say, I would like to be able to tell a story as well as Lorraine Hansberry or T.S. Eliot in his poetry, or whoever it is, that's, that's to me is part of it.