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

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
0,0:10136,170:13232,197:14006,237:15038,253:15898,265:21582,396:39068,567:40770,609:41954,630:43360,706:50408,776:50696,781:53072,839:53360,844:65145,1025:65620,1031:72430,1151:77302,1229:87552,1403:89820,1440:97848,1549:98530,1561:100100,1569:100471,1578:101213,1591:101425,1596:102008,1611:102432,1620:104763,1644:105675,1711:108858,1799:118296,1891:118544,1896:129720,2094:138708,2244:139247,2252:140094,2275:147528,2390:152255,2473:152595,2478:172154,2746:172602,2754:173050,2766:174330,2787:174586,2792:174842,2797:177594,2880:186274,2999:187309,3017:187585,3022:194184,3085:195496,3113:195906,3119:196234,3124:198770,3144:199210,3150:200002,3167:200442,3173:201234,3190:201850,3198:205458,3278:207148,3303:208204,3319:216510,3413:220535,3466:222430,3472$0,0:724,15:4296,87:11803,189:12127,194:12775,204:19294,273:19980,282:31315,416:34074,463:35409,483:39125,511:40169,526:49739,722:52200,760:53800,780:56760,854:57560,865:67287,948:68418,973:69027,981:78759,1145:79075,1150:79707,1161:80023,1166:80339,1171:90222,1356:92280,1406:92966,1415:104680,1592:108074,1640:108410,1645:108998,1653:109754,1676:114962,1776:126970,1930:127540,1941:132575,2032:133240,2046:135045,2067:140080,2220:145068,2236:145670,2244:148852,2312:149282,2318:149626,2323:153668,2402:154098,2408:164290,2549:164885,2557:167605,2618:167945,2623:171005,2674:171855,2686:178105,2743:184400,2884:184994,2895:185324,2901:189770,2970:190730,2989:192570,3034:196730,3122:210086,3270:214319,3380:225120,3515:229580,3566
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.

Jefferson Eugene Grigsby

Art professor, fine artist, and high school art teacher Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr. was born on October 17, 1918, in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Sr. and Perry Lyon Dixon. Grigsby first discovered his love for art after his family moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, when he was nine years old. In 1933, Grigsby attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Within a year, Grigsby transferred to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he first met his long time mentor, Hale Woodruff. Grigsby graduated from Morehouse College in 1938, with B.A. degree and because of Woodruff, he was equipped with extensive artistic experience that he would retain throughout his life. Grigsby went on to obtain his M.A. degree in art (1940) from Ohio State University and his Ph.D. degree from New York University (1963).

In 1942, Grigsby volunteered to serve in World War II and became a master sergeant of the 573rd Ordinance Ammunition Company under U.S. Army General George Patton during the Battle of the Bulge. In 1943, Grigsby married Rosalyn Thomasena Marshall, a high school biology teacher and social activist. Three years later, at the invitation of the school’s principal, W.A. Robinson, Grigsby began working at Carver High School as an art teacher. After the closing of the school in 1954, Grigsby began working at Phoenix Union High School where he remained until 1966.

In 1958, Grigsby was selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to represent the United States as an art teacher at the Children’s Creative Center at the Brussels World Fair in Belgium. This experience inspired Grigsby to initiate a number of art programs in community centers, housing projects and day care centers in the Phoenix area.

Grigsby began teaching at the university level in 1966, working at the School of Art at Arizona State University until 1988. During this time, Grigsby published "Art and Ethics: Background for Teaching Youth in a Pluralistic Society," the first book ever written for art teachers by an African American artist and author.

In 2001, "The Art of Eugene Grigsby Jr.: A 65 Year Retrospective" was featured at the Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibition featured insightful commentary of Grigsby’s life and influence on the art and education world by his many colleagues, friends and family.

Grigsby served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the National Art Education Association, the Committee on Minority Concerns and Artists of the Black Community/Arizona. Grigsby has also been awarded numerous times for his outstanding work, including the Arizona Governor’s “Tostenrud” Art Award and the NAACP’s Man of the Year Award.

Grigsby lives with his wife in their Phoenix home. They have two sons, Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, III and Marshall Grigsby, who both have been recognized as educators.

Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 11, 2007.

Jefferson Eugene Grigsby passed away on June 9, 2013.

Accession Number

A2007.204

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/11/2007 |and| 7/13/2007

Last Name

Grigsby

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Eugene

Schools

Second Ward High School

Morehouse College

The Ohio State University

New York University

American Artists School

École des Beaux-Arts

Search Occupation Category
First Name

J.

Birth City, State, Country

Greensboro

HM ID

GRI06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Phoenix, Arizona

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Arizona

Birth Date

10/17/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Phoenix

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp, Salmon

Death Date

6/9/2013

Short Description

Fine artist, art professor, and high school art teacher Jefferson Eugene Grigsby (1918 - 2013 ) was selected in 1958 by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to represent the United States as an art teacher at the Children's Creative Center at the Brussels World Fair. Grigsby published Art and Ethics: Background for Teaching Youth in a Pluralistic Society, the first book ever written for art teachers by an African American artist and author.

Employment

Carver High School

Phoenix Union High School District

Arizona State University

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:13510,157:18325,345:24959,415:62075,717:62520,723:87762,970:102350,1146:115418,1329:116264,1340:122752,1424:127444,1490:128056,1497:129892,1525:140378,1659:140913,1669:141555,1677:142304,1686:149309,1761:154346,1827:163988,2107:164364,2112:181782,2285:182418,2292:213220,2548:214210,2605:247805,2938:249465,2966:250046,2975:253781,3078:254362,3087:261996,3206:262828,3215:263452,3222:276100,3329:278424,3369:285130,3432:286150,3449:287170,3465:288904,3492:294004,3583:294412,3588:294922,3594:324410,3916$0,0:623,20:19584,409:49100,818:60046,880:61510,897:68734,943:74033,1013:74438,1019:88631,1165:90806,1201:94721,1300:96722,1349:101315,1380:120404,1587:134846,1752:135455,1761:144418,1919:148162,1995:157510,2091:162060,2114:162352,2171:185564,2340:191260,2397:202840,2516:203800,2532:217712,2644:218252,2650:219945,2671:220641,2680:223164,2722:227910,2773:240920,2952:250342,3040:250958,3049:256117,3207:267486,3347:271420,3389
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jefferson Eugene Grigsby's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his mother's personality and upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his father's upbringing and career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his home life

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his grade school experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the community of Prairie View, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to painting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers the Second Ward High School in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art classes at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers moving to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about the Works Progress Administration

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to New York City's arts community

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Langston Hughes

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers New York City's Harlem community

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his studies at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art residency at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Mary McLeod Bethune

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls joining the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his promotions in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers organizing a U.S. Army band

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his deployment to Europe during World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls mounting theater productions while serving in the U.S. Army

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his marriage and the start of his teaching career

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his art students at George Washington Carver High School

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls the closure of George Washington Carver High School

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls teaching at Phoenix Union High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers travelling internationally as an artist

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes L'Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts in France

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers his transition to teaching

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his colleagues at George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his adjustment to Phoenix Union High School

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his wife's career

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Expo 58 in Belgium

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls the African American expatriates at Expo 58

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers traveling in Europe with his family

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls returning home from Belgium

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his honorary doctorate in fine art

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls joining the faculty of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his accomplishments as an art professor

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers interviewing African American artists

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his work with the National Art Education Association

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his research on African art traditions

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls curating an African art exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls curating an African art exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the black community's support of the Heard Museum

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his final years at Arizona State University

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby reflects upon the role of art competitions

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes the Consortium of Black Organizations and Others for the Arts

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about his retirement from Arizona State University

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his artistic style and influences

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about aspiring African American artists

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby talks about commercialism in art

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby reflects upon his role in the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby shares a message to future generations

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers artist Grace Hampton

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$7

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Jefferson Eugene Grigsby recalls his introduction to painting
Jefferson Eugene Grigsby remembers Expo 58 in Belgium
Transcript
When we came to Charlotte [North Carolina], I think I came in the eighth grade.$$In reading some of your history, I came across a name, Walker Foster. Does that--$$Yeah.$$Could you tell us about Walker Foster?$$Well, when we moved to Charlotte, I immediately got me a paper route and I was--it was during the Depression [Great Depression]. At that time, I was buying all my clothes and pretty much taking care of myself financially other than food and what we had at home. So, in the paper route, the people I could count on and the people who I had problems in collecting from, seemed like the teachers and the preachers were the ones I had the hardest time collecting from. Well, at that time, teachers weren't being paid and such, but prostitutes and pimps then were the ones I could--had no problems collecting from bootleggers. So, so--but Walker Foster was a, a class of his own. He was a stone mason, and he hadn't paid me in a month or more, but I knew he would pay if I could catch him. So, one morning about four o'clock as I was delivering his papers, I saw lights on at the house and I knocked on the door. When he opened the door, there was a lot of lights and paintings were all around the room. And I said, "Where did you get these paintings?" He said he painted them. I laughed. I laughed in his face because he didn't fit my preconception of what an artist should look like. Here, this guy was quite black and kind of dumpy. He, he had really dull hands from laying bricks and all. When I--my impression of a--of an artist was blonde and blue eyes and such. So he saw I didn't believe him. He said, "If you don't believe me, would you like to come and watch?" Of course. I went down and watched, and after watching him a few weeks, he asked me if I wanted to try, put a brush in my hand and that was it.$$What facilitated the move to Charlotte? Why did you all go there?$$My dad [Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Sr.] got a job as principal of the high school [Second Ward High School, Charlotte, North Carolina]. He--it was a challenge for him because he, he had worked in a high school in Lynchburg [Virginia], but not since then. So he packed up the family and moved in several different times. He bought a--bought an old car. We didn't have a car before that, name was Essex. And one--and driving, I went with him once from Winston-Salem [North Carolina] to Charlotte and he asked me if I wanted to drive, so I did. So I was twelve years old then. So I was driving and a policeman stopped. And when he, he came up and said--he asked me, "How old are you boy?" I said, "I'm fourteen." Well, you had to be sixteen. And after, he said--told dad, "You drive this car." And when he started driving, dad said, "Why didn't you tell him you were sixteen?" I said, "I didn't wanna tell that big a lie," (laughter).$$Now, you're, you're in Charlotte. Let's--and you found this--you found mister--Mr. Foster Walker.$$Yeah.$$Now, what was your feeling aside from the fact that you saw the paintings and didn't believe that he had done them? What was your feeling about art and paintings when you saw those paintings?$$I thought they were real nice. I didn't have any, anything beyond that I don't think at that time. I didn't have a desire to paint. It was only after Walker Foster had me trying or doing some paintings, some of which I still have that I got interested in art.$$What was the feeling when you first took that first brush and started to paint and touch it to that canvas?$$(Laughter) It's weird. It's unexpected, really, as to what might happen.$$And what was his reaction when he saw you doing this?$$I think he was pleased. I think he was pleased that he had--in fact, I know, after a while he used to take pride in introducing me.$$So, at this stage, you're--approximately how old are you now, would you say you are now?$$Between twelve and thirteen, yeah.$We're gonna go back through the '50s [1950s], the end of the '50s [1950s], and were there any, any particular events in the '50s [1950s], late '50s [1950s], that are important that, that we talk about today? For instance, we do know that you did some World's Fair [Expo 58, Brussels, Belgium] things.$$That was in '58 [1958] and I think we--didn't we talk about the (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Let's go over it again just for a moment. You, you went to--where did you go?$$I went to Brussels [Belgium], and we went there and it was cold. The fair had just opened. And Victor D'Amico who was the educational director of the Museum of Modern Art and who had invited me came along in the beginning. There were three of us. I was the only one who was not on the regular staff of the Museum of Modern Art in New York [New York]. The--D'Amico had designed two rooms, one in which we brought children in and they had toys that stimulated creativity. In the next room, they had easels for painting and a big table with all kind of objects on it for construction. Well, when we got there, there were very few kids around. So I saw a teacher with about twelve kids walking through, with the boys about ten, twelve years old. So, I ran out and grabbed them and said, "Come on over here. Here's something you might be interested in." So, they came in and it was cold. They took off their coats and hung them up. And these were Flemish kids, and they ran around and they were very aggressive. I thought at once they might tear up some of the toys they had there. We had one toy that was like a piano but it--as you press the key, you got a color on a screen and you could mix colors with--and they were rambunctious with these. Finally, went into the second room and sit down to paint. And they sat down and when they sat down, they pulled the cigarettes out and started--and I said, "Well, no smoking." At that time, we were smoking and I felt like a hypocrite.$$How old were these children?$$Ten, eleven, twelve years old (laughter).$$(Laughter).$$They were Flemish kids. And when they left, one of them said to me and I--as he was putting his coat on, he said, (speaking French), "Embrassez-moi." And I said, what did you say? And he turned around and demonstrated kiss my ass (laughter).$$(Laughter).$$We had--there were three of us from the United States. There was a maid to help clean up afterwards, there was a person who went to the various schools to bring in the students, and there was a couple of other people. There was about five of us in there. And we had a number of languages covered. The--so when the kids would enter, we learned to speak to them in their language and we'd determine that by the way they dressed and the conversations they were having. So, it's, sprichst du Deutsch, it's, parlez-vous francais? Or somebody in Spanish would speak. One kid came in and sat down, I said, "You speak English?" He said, "No." "Parlez-vous francais?" "No." Sprichst du Deutsch?" "No." And I called somebody else over to ask him and I was frustrated. I said, "What in the hell do you speak?" He said, "I speak American."$$(Laughter).$$And we went to England after that and listened to some of these cockneys, and you couldn't understand what they were saying. They were speaking English. So, all those little things really helped me understand.

Kenneth G. Rodgers

Artist and art historian Kenneth Gerald Rodgers was born on October 22, 1949 in Siler City, North Carolina to Cornelia and Johnnie Rodgers, a data entry operator and laborer, respectively. Rodgers’ uncle inspired him to begin drawing at the age of seven, and Rodgers became a young caricaturist. He graduated from Chatham High School in 1967 and received a scholarship to attend North Carolina A&T State University where he majored in art design. At North Carolina A&T State University, Rodgers learned the technical aspects of drawing, painting, design and color, and he mastered skills in still life and portraiture. Rodgers graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971 with his B.S. degree in art design and, in 1972, became a graduate assistant at the Weatherspoon Art Gallery where he studied exhibition design, mounting and crafting. He received his M.F.A. degree from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in 1973.

Rodgers’ academic career progressed in 1974 when he was named director of the art program at Voorhees College. Leaving Voorhees in 1977, he assumed the position of assistant professor of art at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. In 1984, Rodgers began the "Art of the Modern World" series in Ocean City, Maryland. In 1990, he joined the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and was charged with conserving, promoting and interpreting the history of black Marylanders and became chairman of the commission in 1993. As chairman, he supervised the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, Maryland. Also in 1993, Rodgers was named associate professor of African American Art History at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore and was also named Artist-in-Residence at Mesa State College in Colorado.

In 1996, Rodgers became director of the North Carolina Central University Art Museum, which houses the largest collection of African American art in the state. In this capacity, Rodgers served as organizer and curator of several high profile exhibits including Edward Mitchell Bannister: American Landscape Artist, Re-connecting Roots: The Silver Anniversary Alumni Invitational, Charles White: American Draughtsman, Elizabeth Catlett: Master Printmaker and William H. Johnson: Revisiting an African American Modernist. In 2006, Rodgers was named Professor of Art and Director of the North Carolina University Art Museum. He has published several art compilations including William H. Johnson: Revisiting an African American Modernist and Climbing Up the Mountain: The Modern Art of Malvin Gray Johnson. Rodgers painted the official portrait of the first African American member of the North Carolina Council of State and the first African American State Auditor for North Carolina, Ralph Campbell. Rodgers has received numerous research grants and awards including: a National Endowment for the Humanities for study at the Vatican Museums and the American Academy in Rome, a Fulbright-Hays Study Abroad award for research in Kenya and Tanzania, and grants from the North Carolina Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Duke-Semans Fine Arts Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation to support museum exhibitions and programs.

Rodgers is the father of two and lives in North Carolina with his wife, Shielda Glover Rodgers.

Kenneth Rodgers was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 22, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.184

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/22/2007

Last Name

Rodgers

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

G.

Schools

Jordan-Matthews High School

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Kenneth

Birth City, State, Country

Siler City

HM ID

ROD04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

Nobody's Exempt.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

10/22/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Durham

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Tacos, Fajitas

Short Description

Fine artist, curator, art history professor, and museum director Kenneth G. Rodgers (1949 - ) taught at many universities, and in 2006, was named Professor of Art and Director of the North Carolina University Art Museum. He was a part of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and was charged with conserving, promoting and interpreting the history of black Marylanders.

Employment

North Carolina Central University

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Voorhees College

Florida A&M University

South Carolina State University

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:1008,24:7740,76:30827,243:55476,527:56334,539:56880,548:59060,559:72800,755:73180,760:95265,1097:96015,1105:111010,1285:131595,1491:132540,1501:139860,1590:142809,1624:164560,1840$0,0:2009,47:7486,88:7962,93:8557,108:14166,197:14430,202:14694,207:15354,219:16014,230:17710,265:25568,414:34566,550:40925,585:41660,594:49704,628:50674,639:51062,646:51547,652:53490,660:58979,722:61142,737:65935,778:66260,784:67896,797:68304,802:68814,808:71262,841:74016,881:77892,949:78300,954:79626,969:80238,984:82278,1027:88128,1051:93333,1107:94464,1124:97424,1144:98066,1156:106930,1236:108926,1252:126650,1388:132383,1474:138652,1504:139324,1523:143040,1564:147448,1643:147883,1649:156262,1775:157052,1791:163160,1888:163445,1894:163673,1899:164357,1912:164756,1921:165269,1931:165782,1941:186210,2148:188518,2160:188894,2165:193302,2203:203870,2268:204225,2274:204509,2279:206490,2284:207474,2298:211460,2318:213070,2332:213651,2341:216970,2374:217586,2382:218554,2394:230950,2515:231490,2524:233264,2545:243330,2662
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kenneth G. Rodgers' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his maternal great-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers talks about his mother's education and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his neighborhood in Siler City, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes himself as a student

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his early interest in art

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls the racial tensions in Siler City, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers Corinth A.M.E. Zion Church in Siler City, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes Chatham High School in Siler City, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his decision to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his first week of college

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his first painting experiences in college

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his art courses at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his political and social involvement in college

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls the uprising after Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his decision to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his first class in graduate school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes the facilities at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kenneth G. Rodgers talks about his artistic influences

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his experiences at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls applying to the North Carolina Museum of Art

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his position at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his experiences at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers shares his favorite memories with his children

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers exhibiting at the Orangeburg Festival of Roses

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his painting, 'Cardplayers'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers talks about his favorite artists

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his own artwork

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his position at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers his exhibition of Edward Mitchell Bannister's work

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his neighborhood in Princess Anne, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Kenneth G. Rodgers remembers the Thurgood Marshall Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his position at North Carolina Central University Art Museum

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his exhibition of Charles Wilbert White's work

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls his exhibition of Elizabeth Catlett's work

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Kenneth G. Rodgers describes the work of Malvin Gray Johnson

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Kenneth G. Rodgers recalls the exhibition 'Raising Renee and Other Themes'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Kenneth G. Rodgers reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Kenneth G. Rodgers reflects upon his artistic inspiration

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Kenneth G. Rodgers narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

3$9

DATitle
Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his own artwork
Kenneth G. Rodgers describes his position at North Carolina Central University Art Museum
Transcript
Describe another one of your favorite paintings, one you crafted yourself.$$Some years ago, I did a piece depicting two musicians, a cornet player, who happened to be on the right side of the painting, and another African musician playing his version of the xylophone, and the actual name of the instrument escapes me at the moment, but that was a work that allowed me not only to look at physiognomy, but it allowed me to look at these musical instruments and manipulate all kinds of modeling and shading effects as well. The unfortunate thing is that I did complete it and it was able to get into a major exhibit and I looked forward to getting it back, however it was purchased. And I really have mixed feelings about it, and you know it happens a lot with artists.$$What exhibit was it a part of?$$It was an exhibit at the J.B. Speed Art Museum [J.B. Speed Memorial Museum; Speed Art Museum] in Louisville, Kentucky. An exact title escapes me at the moment. But I think frequently artists are faced with this dilemma. Works of art become a part of you and you don't want to let go, but in the case of someone like, like myself, I don't produce work to sell it. I've never thought about it that way. I produce it because I like to do it. And, well that just happened to be a unique situation.$$Do you have any art that captures life in the South, either capturing relationships between white southerners and black southerners?$$I do not. I haven't really looked at that dynamic, but it's something that I plan to do. And I think I should say that one of the reasons I haven't done so is because I'm a bit of a hybrid, in that I'm doing curatorial work while trying to become a painter, and notice my expression, I'll still learning how to paint to the extent that some things have simply fallen through the cracks to coin the expression.$When you left Maryland, what year was that?$$I came to North Carolina in 1996.$$Why?$$I came here primarily because I heard about North Carolina Central University [Durham, North Carolina] and the fact that they had an exhibition space that was larger than the one that I currently worked at [at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, Maryland]. So I came to North Carolina Central University as director of their art museum [North Carolina Central University Art Museum, Durham, North Carolina].$$And what's your first memory?$$My first memory is my meeting with my board of directors, and thinking about the challenges that I might have in terms of putting together a body of programming that would do justice to the university, of course, would satiate the board members, but that would also continue this notion that I always had of pulling these artists out from the shadows and presenting them. So that first memories was of that meeting was my first, my very first meeting of the board.$$What was your first accomplishment in that role?$$I think the first accomplishment, certainly from the board's perspective, was to ensure them that they had made the right decision in, in bringing me along, that I would be faithful to the mission of the university, of the university museum.$$What was the mission?$$To promote, conserve and present African American art.$$So what, tell me the artists and the paintings you provide.$$Well, we had already at the museum the nucleus of a broad section of African American artists that we could build on. Almost all of the major artists were there, minus one or two.$$Who were they?$$There were the 19th century icons, Edward Mitchell Bannister, Henry Tanner [Henry Ossawa Tanner], Robert Scott Duncanson. There was also a generous representation of WPA [Works Progress Administration; Work Projects Administration] era artists. There were contemporary artists, including MacArthur winners [MacArthur Fellowship]. So the notion was to use these artists as a point of departure and to develop the (unclear) exhibits around what was already there. And I think we've probably been able to do that in, in some measure.$$What was the most startling experience for you?$$Well, I think the most startling experience might have been attempting to reconcile realistic acquisitions, plan and budget against what was in place because essentially there was not very much in place for acquisition so the, the first call of order is to add to the collection, and if you have the nucleus of, of works from various periods, how do you then add to those, and where do you, more importantly, get the monies from to do it?

Camille Billops

Artist and filmmaker Camille Billops was born on August 12, 1933, in Los Angeles, California. Billops’ career has consisted of printmaking, sculpture, book illustration and filmmaking. She obtained her B.A. degree from California State University as well as her M.F.A. degree from City College of New York in 1975. Her primary medium is sculpture, and her works are in the permanent collections of the Jersey City Museum in Jersey City, New Jersey, and the Museum of Drawers, Bern, Switzerland. Billops has exhibited in one-woman and group exhibitions worldwide including: Gallerie Akhenaton, Cairo, Egypt; Hamburg, Germany; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer Gallery, and El Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia. She was a long time friend and colleague of master printmaker Robert Blackburn, whom she assisted in establishing the first printmaking workshop in Asilah, Morocco in 1978.

In 1975, with her husband, Black theatre historian James Hatch, Billops founded the Hatch-Billops Collection. This impressive African American archive is a collection of oral histories, books, slides, photographs and other historical references. Billops also collaborated with James Van Der Zee and poet Owen Dodson in the publication of The Harlem Book of the Dead. In 1982, Billops began her filmmaking career with Suzanne, Suzanne. She followed this promising beginning by directing five more films, including Finding Christa in 1991, which is a highly autobiographical work that garnered the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival. Finding Christa has also been aired as part of the Public Broadcasting Station’s P.O.V. television series. Her other film credits include Older Women and Love in 1987, The KKK Boutique Ain’t Just Rednecks in 1994, Take Your Bags in 1998, and A String of Pearls in 2002. Billops produced all of her films with her husband and their film company, Mom and Pop Productions. They have also co-published Artist and Influence, an annual, in 1981 as an extensive journal of the African Americans in the visual, performing and literary arts community.

Billops and her husband residde in New York City, where they both served as archivists of the Hatch-Billops Collection.

Billops passed away on June 1, 2019.

Accession Number

A2006.171

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/14/2006

Last Name

Billops

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Catholic Girls' High School

Los Angeles City College

California State University, Los Angeles

University of Southern California

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Camille

Birth City, State, Country

Los Angeles

HM ID

BIL03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/12/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spaghetti

Death Date

6/1/2019

Short Description

Fine artist, archivist, and film producer Camille Billops (1933 - ) worked in several media: printmaking, sculpture, book illustration and award-winning documentaries. Along with her husband, Billops founded the Hatch-Billops Collection, an African American archival collection of oral histories, books, slides, photographs and other historical references.

Employment

City College of New York

New York Public Schools

‘Artist and Influence: The Journal of Black American Cultural History’

Camille Billops and James V. Hatch Archives

'Finding Christa'

'Suzanne, Suzanne'

'A String of Pearls'

'Older Women and Love'

‘The KKK Boutique Ain’t Just Rednecks’

'The Harlem Book of the Dead'

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:792,11:2904,59:5720,105:6600,117:10912,217:42806,587:43768,603:44286,611:50322,674:52758,718:56034,764:57042,778:57630,787:58386,797:60738,865:67400,903:68100,917:69500,937:69920,945:70550,957:70900,963:73350,1016:79430,1098:79920,1104:80606,1113:81096,1122:84722,1183:102752,1418:104624,1451:106424,1511:110024,1585:113624,1649:125242,1816:126025,1826:127069,1844:128374,1862:141933,2117:142402,2126:143273,2143:151370,2227$0,0:5628,119:7476,152:10332,198:18818,258:20450,279:28202,520:28610,525:33364,551:33972,564:34656,574:34960,590:35416,613:41724,721:48336,872:50768,950:51832,967:52136,972:52440,977:69980,1196:77964,1294:87624,1490:105396,1717:111740,1747:113090,1774:117161,1862:117437,1867:119921,1929:121978,1950:122825,1970:130833,2190:131680,2205:141998,2348:153690,2494:161190,2567:161510,2598:161990,2605:164100,2654
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Camille Billops' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Camille Billops lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Camille Billops describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Camille describes her mother's enslaved ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Camille Billops talks about preserving her mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Camille Billops recalls researching her mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Camille Billops describes her father and her maternal family's relocation to Red Bank, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Camille Billops talks about her father's occupation as a Pullman porter

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Camille Billops describes her father's travels as a Pullman porter

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Camille Billops recalls her father's dark skin complexion

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Camille Billops describes her parents' photographs and her family's early deaths

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Camille Billops recalls living in Los Angeles as World War II began

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Camille Billops describes her childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Camille Billops describes her parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Camille Billops recalls moving to the Westside of Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Camille Billops remembers skating to her favorite music as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Camille Billops recalls her mother remarrying after her father's death

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Camille Billops recalls her disillusionment with Catholicism

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Camille Billops describes her views on religion

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Camille Billops recalls becoming interested in art during her college career

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Camille Billops describes her stepfather and stepsister

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Camille Billops recalls her career after giving her daughter up for adoption

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Camille Billops describes her theater experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Camille Billops recalls her experiences as a theater costume designer

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Camille Billops recalls working as a visual artist in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Camille Billops remembers actor Vin Diesel

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Camille Billops describes her experiences teaching art in elementary schools

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Camille Billops talks about popular African American artists

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Camille Billops talks about the black art aesthetic

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Camille Billops talks about feminism and her African American history journal

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Camille Billops describes the relationship of black and white female artists

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Camille Billops talks about interracial relationships

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Camille Billops recalls how rising New York rent costs affected artists

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Camille Billops recalls protesting the lack of diversity at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Camille Billops talks about African American artist co-ops' rental properties

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Camille Billops recalls African American artists' lack of interest in co-ops

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Camille Billops recalls directing plays with her husband, James V. Hatch

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Camille Billops remembers holding poetry readings at her artist co-op

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Camille Billops describes her artist co-op and establishing her archive

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Camille Billops describes the early stages of the archive

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Camille Billops describes her short films about drug abuse and violence

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Camille Billops talks about her short documentary, 'Older Women and Love'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Camille Billops describes her relationship with her daughter, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Camille Billops describes her relationship with her daughter, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Camille Billops shares her views on racism, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Camille Billops shares her views on racism, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Camille Billops describes her short film, 'Take Your Bags'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Camille Billops describes her favorite filmmakers

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Camille Billops recalls working on 'The Harlem Book of the Dead' by James Van Der Zee, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Camille Billops recalls working on 'The Harlem Book of the Dead' by James Van Der Zee, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Camille Billops recalls teaching at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Camille Billops recalls teaching at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Camille Billops talks about painter Richard Bruce Nugent

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Camille Billops talks about George C. Wolfe

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Camille Billops talks about George C. Wolfe's play 'The Colored Museum'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Camille Billops describes her favorite artists

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Camille Billops recalls the artists featured in her archive

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Camille Billops describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

2$8

DATitle
Camille Billops recalls her experiences as a theater costume designer
Camille Billops describes her artist co-op and establishing her archive
Transcript
What other roles, I mean, you--wasn't [HistoryMaker] Micki Grant in 'Fly Blackbird'?$$Yeah. And when it came to New York [New York], well, I didn't try out because I knew I wouldn't get it. But Micki didn't get her role, because the role was called Camille. And little influence there, huh? But anyway, she, that was, was that Mary Louise or something? I don't know, I forgot who was the lead. We can look it up on the record album. But Bob Guillaume [HistoryMaker Robert Guillaume] was in it. And then they had a nice Jewish boy playing George, a Jewish boy with Max Factor and Japanese makeup playing George. But eventually, he did get in; he got in the New York production, you know, later. But that was, that was it. You know, but once--see, once I discovered or began to associate with theater people, then I saw what--I mean, I could do a cover, I could do a drawing, or I could draw a costume. You know, these things, later I began to do these things. In '68 [1968] Jim [James V. Hatch] was on a Fulbright [Fulbright Scholarship] to go to India to do theater, and we did it for about seven or eight or nine months, I don't remember. But we did theater all up in Bombay [Bombay, India; Mumbai, India] and Delhi [India] and all those places--Bangalore [India]. And I did the masks. You see, I did the masks and we designed the costumes. And then when we went back to India, they needed a theater specialist. And Jim's buddy was working for USIA [U.S. Information Agency], and he put in a request for a theater person, and we were the only ones who applied. So, when we appeared we said, "Our flight, too." And I did, we did parts of Jean-Claude van Itallie's play, 'American Hurrah' [sic. 'America Hurrah']. And I did the costumes and masks, and then it was really sort of clear that I was designing things. I had an opportunity to do things. That's how you develop, you have an opportunity. You know, you have an opportunity to learn how to write a book when you have the opportunity. And that demystified it, I mean in retrospect. It demystified it for me--that how many people never have the opportunity, the access? But this energy is right there. I was just lucky. I was very, very lucky.$Who else was in the 11th Street [New York, New York] scene with you?$$Oh, it was a guy named Larry Garvin, who used to work for the archives. He later married an editor, Paula Heredia, who was the editor for our film, 'Finding Christa.' There were friends from the old days at UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California], Stan Meyers [Stanley Meyer]. Jim's son [Dion Hatch] was living with us, you know, because he was going to City College [City College of New York, New York, New York] at that time. And so, there were just sort of local New York [New York] people that we had met that had come, and musicians. And we rented the floor up above us in the same building. And Dion, I don't know why he thought he could do this, but he was going to--you know, we were power to the people, you know. And he was going to teach plumbing to the people. I said, "You don't know nothing about plumbing," (laughter). But we have photographs from that time. And then there was one Puerto Rican artist, a poet. And he was a fabulous poet, but he was, he had AIDS [acquired immunodeficiency syndrome], it was the early days of AIDS. And his wife later died. But he did this poem to Miles Davis called 'Sketches of Spain.' That's why you can never do anything with a copyright, you know. It was really beautiful. His name was Nelson [ph.], and he just loved Victoria [ph.], who was a white girl. He just loved Vicky, but Vicky didn't like him (laughter). But that was, those people--artists and playwrights--and young, youngish. We were what, '30s [1930s]? No, late '30s [1930s], '40s [1940s], around in there.$$So, once the era of 11th Street, how did that era end?$$We had to move, because the landlord sold the building. And it was good that we didn't try to buy it, because we didn't know how to buy it. And two, later the back wall separated from the building, and they had to bring it in five feet. So, it's nice that we didn't have it. But we moved into an eight-room loft, and that's where Hatch-Billops [Camille Billops and James V. Hatch Archives] was. We weren't going to do anymore theater and stuff. So we, Hatch-Billops became, took the energy, and we incorporated it in 1975 and became, started this library. And then the people who had our floor here--$$Moved out?$$Moved out. So we came by here to see it, and so we--it was not a tunnel loft like the other one. And we said, "Oh, God, we're going to have to move again." So, we moved fifteen months later into this space, and then this happened. So that's like thirty years; we moved in thirty years (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And then--

David Driskell

Artist and scholar David Driskell is regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on African American art. Driskell was born on June 7, 1931 in Eatonton, Georgia. Educated in North Carolina's public schools, he earned his undergraduate degree at Howard University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Driskell also pursued post-graduate studies in Art History at the Netherlands Institute for the History of Art in the Hague and studied African and African American cultures independently in Europe, Africa, and South America.

In 1976, Driskell opened his groundbreaking exhibition, "Two Centuries of Black American Art", at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The show prompted the creation of similar shows around the country. Driskell also penned the show's catalogue, an invaluable text to art scholars who previously had very little information available on African American artists.

Since 1977, Driskell has served as cultural advisor to Camille and Bill Cosby and curator of the Cosby Collection of Fine Arts. He placed works of African American artists on the set of "The Cosby Show". This is credited with creating a new class of African American art collectors.

Driskell has contributed significantly to the study of the role of African American artists in society. He has written five exhibition books, co-authored four others, and published more than forty catalogues from exhibitions he has curated. Driskell has lectured extensively in North America, Europe, Africa, and South America and has taught at numerous universities.

In 1998, the University of Maryland established the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the African Diaspora. The Center honors Driskell's career as artist, educator, philanthropist, collector and art historian.

Accession Number

A2001.022

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

6/23/2001

Last Name

Driskell

Maker Category
Schools

Catholic University of America

The Netherlands Institute for Art History

Talladega College

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

David

Birth City, State, Country

Eatonton

HM ID

DRI01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Falmouth, Maine

Favorite Quote

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't be anything you want to be.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

6/7/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Art professor, curator, and fine artist David Driskell (1931 - ) was one of the world's leading authorities on African American art. He wrote five exhibition books, co-authored four others, and published more than forty catalogues from exhibitions he curated. In 1998, the University of Maryland established the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the African Diaspora, which honored Driskell's career as artist, educator, philanthropist, collector, and art historian.

Employment

Cosby Collection of Fine Arts

Talladega College

University of Maryland (1812-1920)

Bowdoin College

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of David Driskell interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - David Driskell identifies five favorite things

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - David Driskell talks about his mother and her background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - David Driskell talks about his siblings and father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - David Driskell discusses the education of blacks within his community

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - David Driskell shares memories of his time in Edenton, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - David Driskell reflects on growing up in Edenton, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - David Driskell describes his childhood personality and interests

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - David Driskell discusses his father's religious orientation

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - David Driskell reflects on growing up as the son of a preacher

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - David Driskell share a story about his name

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - David Driskell talks about the connection between his father and African traditions

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - David Driskell talks about his mother and her ability to make predictions

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - David Driskell details his decision to attend Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - David Driskell discusses the support he received from his sister and mother

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - David Driskell identifies several individuals who were supportive of him

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - David Driskell deliniates his living arrangements while at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - David Driskell discusses his undergraduate major and James A. Porter

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - David Driskell talks about the undervalued contributions of James A. Porter

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - David Driskell discusses the environment and inspiration of the Barnett Aden Gallery

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - David Driskell reflects on the relationship that existed among artists

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - David Driskell talks about Louise Jones and his trip to Skowhagen

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - David Driskell details his first teaching experience at Talladega College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - David Driskell shares details about how he met his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - David Driskell talks about returning to Howard University and turning down Fisk University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - David Driskell explains how he was recruited to Fisk University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - David Driskell the history of Fisk University's art collection and his curation of the collection

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - David Driskell talks about his schedule and the value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - David Driskell details the efforts to curate and conserve Fisk University's art collection

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - David Driskell discusses the role of white patrons

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - David Driskell talks about black arts education at various universities

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - David Driskell discusses the University of Maryland African American art history program and the faculty he recruited

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - David Driskell compares current efforts in African American studies with past efforts

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - David Driskell talks about his training in conservation and preservation

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - David Driskell talks about curators of African American art

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - David Driskell discusses the AfriCobra movement

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - David Driskell talks about art collectors and art agents

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - David Driskell talks about the market for African American art

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - David Driskell discusses his curatorial relationship with the Cosbys

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - David Driskell discusses his relationship with the Cosbys

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - David Driskell shares a story of a Henry O. Tanner painting and the Cosby family

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - David Driskell talks about his book on the Cosby collection

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - David Driskell talks about his art collection

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - David Driskell discusses his current endeavors

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - David Driskell reflects on his mentors and considers his legacy