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Gail A. Hansberry

Contractor and Graphic Artist/Photographer, Gail A. Hansberry was born in Washington, D.C. on September 4, 1939. Her mother, Myrtle Kelso Hansberry, taught French in a junior high school. Her father, William Leo Hansberry was a pioneer in the study of Ancient African History and taught at Howard University in Washington D.C. from 1922–1959. Hansberry attended public schools and during the 10th grade she lived in Cairo, Egypt, where her father was a Fulbright Research Scholar.

In 1960, Hansberry received her B.A. degree in Art from Howard University. In 1962 she received her M.A. degree in Art History from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, where she also took Leonard Baskin’s graphics courses and made a book of etchings by hand entitled Insects (1962); a later enlarged version was entitled Insects and Haiku (1970).

In 1962-63 Hansberry worked in the Publications Office of the National Gallery of Art and taught art at Taft Junior High School in Washington, D.C. From 1963–1966 she was an instructor of Art History at North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) in Durham, N.C. In 1966, Hansberry moved to New York and was a researcher at Time Life Books from 1967-1976. Then, through 1979, she was a freelance editorial researcher and photographer in NY.

Hansberry returned to Washington, D.C. in 1980 and for about twenty eight years was an English Language Officer (ELO), contracted by the U.S. Department of State.

Organizations to which Hansberry has belonged include BPIA (International Association of Black Professional in International Affairs); AKA (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority); (NCIV) National Council for International Visitors, and WBG (Washington Biography Group). From 1990 -1992 Hansberry served as executive director of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Hansberry’s prints and hand-made books are in private collections and at Smith College, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City and the Library of Congress. Hansberry did photographic studies of the George Washington Bridge in New York and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Two photographs of her study of the Brooklyn Bridge were included in its 1983 Centennial Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum (“The Great East River Bridge 1883-1983”.) Her photography is also included in the 2009 Colors of Life, published by The Exposure Group African American Photographers Association, Inc. of which she is a member. In addition, a transcript of a video interview with Hansberry was published in Artist and Influence, Vol. XXIX, 2010, in the Hatch-Billops Collection Inc, Archives of African American Cultural History.

Gail A. Hansberry was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 9, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.059

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/9/2007

Last Name

Hansberry

Maker Category
Middle Name

A.

Schools

McKinley Technology High School

Mott Elementary School

Slowe Elementary School

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School

Smith College

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Gail

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

HAN02

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

One Should Be Consistent And Fair In Their Relationships With People.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

9/4/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Nonprofit chief executive and photographer Gail A. Hansberry (1939 - ) served as executive director of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History from 1990 to 1992. Her photographs are housed at the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Library of Congress.

Employment

North Carolina Central University

Time Warner, Inc.

Taft Elementary School

United States Department of State

North Carolina College at Durham

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gail A. Hansberry's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gail A. Hansberry lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her father's influence on African studies

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers the Africa House in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers her father's research into African history

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her homes in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gail A. Hansberry describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers her early interest in astronomy

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her love of football

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers her influential teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers her cousin, Lorraine Hansberry

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her father's organizational involvement

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls her aunt, Carrie Washington Fitchett

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers her family's voyage to Egypt

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gail A. Hansberry describes Cairo, Egypt

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls the Manor House School in Cairo, Egypt

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers travelling in Egypt

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her return to the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls her decision to attend Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls her professors at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers her early career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls her teaching career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gail A. Hansberry talks about African American art history

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls teaching at North Carolina College at Durham

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls her interest in photography

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls her trip to Mexico City, Mexico

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers moving to New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls a conflict with her superiors at Time-Life Books

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her photographs of New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls her book, 'Insects and Haiku'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gail A. Hansberry remembers caring for her family

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls working for the U.S. Department of State

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gail A. Hansberry talks about human trafficking

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gail A. Hansberry describes her coordination with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gail A. Hansberry recalls directing the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Gail A. Hansberry remembers her father's research into African history
Gail A. Hansberry remembers her early career
Transcript
Did you get any idea from your father [William Leo Hansberry] where he, he developed the interest in Africa which was so unusual in those days, 'cause there were, there weren't that many people interested in Africa?$$You know, I was just reading some information about that very recently. As I said earlier probably from, from his father [Elden Hayes Hansberry] but then also he read 'The Negro' by W.E.B. Du Bois and much of what he read in there sort of gave him a sense of confidence or the fact that he knew that there, that there was a world out there that, I guess, he was questioning, how could black people not have a history? How could they be brought from Africa and then not have a past or a history? And this was something that just kind of gnawed at him, I guess. And the seeds had been planted because of his father being a historian, or a history teacher at Alcorn [Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College; Alcorn State University, Lorman, Mississippi]. And so he just pursued this passion, I mean, he was passionate about Africa. He would provide information to anybody who would ask him. So many of the people, journalists, other historians, colleagues here at Howard [Howard University, Washington, D.C.] and elsewhere, would ask him about certain things, what he was doing, what was taking place in Africa, or what had taken place in Africa. And many of them got recognition before my father got recognition. So but he, he was such a generous person and so passionate about what he, what he was interested in that he wanted. He transmitted this passion; he was, he, he would just give the information out freely. And I guess that's one of the things that you do when you're a teacher. He used to say, "If the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught." And he was such an excellent teacher and the, his, his excitement, you know, sort was transferred to the students and they were excited also, I guess, that's what made him a very popular teacher. In addition, to the fact that they were learning about something that was very unusual for them and it sort of opened their eyes and it broadened their perspective not just to what had happened here in the United States but, you know, worldwide and particularly focusing on Africa. And they were not from the Dark Continent that they thought they were from or that wasn't their legacy but from a people that were kings and queens, and then when you stop to think that man originated in Africa then, you know, it was the most, it was the continent with the most favorable conditions for man to be created, you know, from the standpoint of, of archeology and anthropology. And what I was reading recently was that many of these things that my father was teaching or saying back in the '20s [1920s] and '30s [1930s] and '40s [1940s] have been actually proven, you know, more accepted now because of the, the research and the, the archeological digs in East Africa.$Well when you finished in '62 [1962] at Smith [Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts] what did you do next?$$(Laughter) I, I went to France for the summer. I went with Lois Jones [Lois Mailou Jones]. She took several, excuse me, trips, had several trips that she would take her students on. I went to France for six weeks, primarily in Paris [France] and we would, you know, visit the museums. Went to the Ecole de la Grande Chaumiere [sic. Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, Paris, France], which was an art school there. Then I remember painting on the street corners, you know, in water color, in Paris. And my thesis at Smith was a comparison between rock paintings in Africa with cave paintings, ancient prehistoric paintings in Europe. And so I was able to go to Southern France to see some of the caves that I had, that I had included, the rock art of, of, in the caves that I had included, cave art that I had included in my thesis. So that was a good, a good six weeks in, in Paris. But all of sudden as I said, I didn't know what I was going to do beforehand but all of a sudden I decided I was going to teach. Prior to that time I didn't want to teach, mainly because my mother [Myrtle Kelso Hansberry] was a teacher, she was now teaching French at Alice Deal Junior High School [Alice Deal Middle School, Washington, D.C.]. My father [William Leo Hansberry] was a teacher, I didn't know what I wanted to do but I knew I didn't wanna teach and then all of a sudden while I was in Paris I decided I wanted to teach. I came back, my first job was at the National Gallery of Art [Washington, D.C.] in the publications office. I understand that I was the first black person in a non-service capacity at the National Gallery of Art. And being in the publications office, I was selling postcards, you know, in their publications, in the, in the store, their, their, their store there, which was a wonderful first job, nice location, nice environment.$$Now, this is 1963 or--$$Nineteen sixty [1960]--$$Or is it still '62 [1962]--$$Two [1962], '63 [1963], yes.$$Okay.$$Sixty-two [1962], '63 [1963]. And I did that for about, oh, several months. It was a great first job.