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Frank Lucas

Graphic designer Frank Lucas was born on August 29, 1930, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He went on to become the first African American illustrator and photographer in Boston's advertising industry.

Raised in Cambridge, Lucas was attracted to art at an early age. With his talent, he was hired as an Army illustrator and photographer during the Korean War. After the war, he returned to Boston and graduated from the Vesper George School of Art in 1955. Lucas was then hired as a graphic designer at Parsons Friedmann and Central. He would later move to Barker Black Studios, where he worked primarily with publishers.

In 1966, Lucas was hired at Ginn and Company, a publishing house where he supervised art editors in the purchase of illustrations and photography for school textbooks. During his thirty-one years there, Lucas also managed packaging and oversaw art direction for the firm's advertising and promotional materials. Later, as director of art and design for children's trade books, Lucas pioneered new techniques in design, production and printing. He retired from the company in 1997. Since then, he has served as a consultant and art director to Course Crafters, a firm that produces materials for Sesame Street, Berlitz and several other educational publishers.

In addition to his work experience, Lucas has directed the career of many art students teaching art at several Boston art schools. He also taught graphic design and lectured at the famous Rhode Island School of Design. Lucas and his daughter, Diahanne, published a monthly New England newspaper, Reunion, for four years. Lucas has drawn wide praise and is the recipient of several awards for his professional work. He and his wife, Patricia Ann, have been married since 1957 and have three children. They reside in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

Accession Number

A2003.078

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/13/2003

Last Name

Lucas

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Houghton Elementary School

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School

Vesper George School of Art

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Frank

Birth City, State, Country

Cambridge

HM ID

LUC01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Life Is One Our Greatest Blessings.$Everyone Should Have An Honest Occupation.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/29/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Rice

Short Description

Graphic designer Frank Lucas (1930 - ) became the first African American illustrator and photographer in Boston's advertising industry. As director of art and design for children's trade books, Lucas pioneered new techniques in design, production and printing. Lucas also taught art at Boston area schools.

Employment

Parsons Friedmann and Central

Barker Black Studios

Ginn and Company

Course Crafters

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Frank Lucas's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Frank Lucas lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Frank Lucas describes his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Frank Lucas describes how his mother and father came to the United States from Barbados

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Frank Lucas describes his father's employment

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Frank Lucas describes how his father defended himself and his family with a homemade wooden club

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Frank Lucas describes his mother's experience as a domestic

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Frank Lucas describes his parents' emphasis on education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Frank Lucas describes how his parents met and when they got married

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Frank Lucas describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Frank Lucas describes how his mother took care of his family

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Frank Lucas describes his experience at Houghton Elementary School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Frank Lucas describes his experience at Ridge Technical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Frank Lucas describes his decision to enroll at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, Massachusetts in 1950

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Frank Lucas describes how he paid for tuition at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, Massachusetts in 1950

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Frank Lucas describes his experience as an artist/illustrator with the Ninth Division of the U.S. Army during the Korean War

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Frank Lucas describes his service in the U.S. Army and graduating from the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Frank Lucas describes the first job he received as an advertising designer

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Frank Lucas describes the racism he experienced trying to find employment in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Frank Lucas describes being hired to work at Parsons, Friedman and Central Advertising in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Frank Lucas describes getting married to Patricia Ann Lucas in 1957

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Frank Lucas describes his brother and role model, Ray Allen

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Frank Lucas describes leaving Parsons, Friedman and Central Advertising to work at Barker-Black Studios

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Frank Lucas describes his experience with Barker-Black Studio and his work after it closed

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Frank Lucas describes being hired by Ginn and Company in 1966

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Frank Lucas describes his experience as high school division supervisor at Ginn and Company

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Frank Lucas describes his experience at Ginn and Company and the corporations that owned Ginn and Company while he worked there

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Frank Lucas recalls the way he was hired at Ginn and Company

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Frank Lucas describes his experience as the only African American editor at a meeting of nationwide publishers in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Frank Lucas describes his struggle to introduce diversity into his book designs for Ginn and Company, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Frank Lucas describes his struggle to introduce diversity into his book designs for Ginn and Company, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Frank Lucas describes his retirement from Ginn and Company and his experience working for Course Crafters

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Frank Lucas describes publishing the Reunion newspaper with his daughter Diahanne Lucas

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Frank Lucas describes the labor that was involved in publishing the Reunion newspaper

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Frank Lucas talks about his children

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Frank Lucas shares the advice he gives to others about careers in graphic design

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Frank Lucas describes organizing the Cambridge Reunion Group to raise money for college scholarships

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Frank Lucas describes his collection of multicultural art and historic artifacts

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Frank Lucas describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Frank Lucas reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Frank Lucas describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Frank Lucas narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Frank Lucas narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Frank Lucas describes the first job he received as an advertising designer
Frank Lucas describes his experience as the only African American editor at a meeting of nationwide publishers in Detroit, Michigan
Transcript
But I soon learned fast when I started to go out there and started to look for my first job. And it was interesting because you know I would--the school had a great placement and they would send off letters saying that they have this guy Frank Lucas who was good at photography, he could--was good at calligraphy, design, illustration. He knew a lot about you know specification of type and all that sort of stuff that makes a designer. Everybody was wanting to see me. But when you got there they usually say "Well the job is taken" or "You're too good for us," you know all those types of things. So I would go home and I would--my father [Kenneth Lucas] would ask me, "Well how did it go today?" And I would tell him that I didn't get the job. I didn't--because I was innocent to the whole thing. And he would simply say to me "You didn't get it because you weren't good enough." "You just didn't have what it took, okay." He didn't brow beat me but he just said, you need to know more. And so I would take additional classes wherever I could find them at Northeastern University [Boston, Massachusetts]. I tried some courses at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts]. I tried other things sharpening up my skills so that when I went in there again they would know. I think one of the things that proved to them that--because I'm sure they were apprehensive about whether or not I could make a living from this thing was that there was store, a department in Cambridge [Massachusetts], they had two stores, big stores and we would shop there from time to time, Cochran's Department Store. And I went in there one day and I would just walk into a store and says, you want any artwork done? That's how naive I was. And the business manager came over to me, says, "Yeah." He says, "you know I could use some signs for my window. We're about to celebrate our Seventy Fifth Anniversary of the store. How would you like to do the signs for the window?" I mean these are huge department store windows and I was pretty good at lettering. And he told me what he wanted and he told me the type of, the type that wanted, old--kind of an old fashioned Bonham [ph.] type I believe it was called. And I had no car so I had to buy the supplies. I went over to the big store in Boston that sold art supplies and I got rolls of paper. I mean these rolls were like eight feet long because these windows are huge. I bought buckets of paint. I had to get these things back home on the street car, if you can imagine and I got them home and my father--I told him that night that I got a job from Cochran's Department Store and he's, oh wow that was great. That's where we bought our clothes. That's where we did our shopping. How big can you get? And what was great about our house is that our bathroom was like a railroad car. It was long and it had walls that you couldn't believe and so I stretched the paper. The thing that I remembered about my father because it was so important to him that I succeed and even though he was going to work the next day at seven o'clock in the morning, this man stayed up with me all night long and he watched me work and he'd talk to me about all kinds of stuff. And he got me coffee or cocoa, or whatever it was to keep me awake because it was many times during that night I wanted to say to heck with it, throw my hands up and walk away. He kept talking to me. And I finished the job and I took it down to the store and the guy looked at me and says kid, he says I didn't think I was going to see you today. But there was the stuff, spelled right, looked good huge amount of stuff. And he says, how much do you want for it? I had no idea, no idea at all. And I whispered, a hundred and fifty dollars okay? Well, the job was probably worth fifteen hundred dollars but a hundred and fifty, I thought of all the money in the world. And he called after the secretary and she came in and she wrote me a check for a hundred and fifty dollars and I came home. I don't even think I walked I must have ran all the way home. And I showed my mother [Millicent Alleyne Lucas] and she gasped cause it was more money than--I made in one night than my father would make in maybe three weeks or maybe a month. And she says don't cash the check. Wait until your father comes home. And I waited and he came home and I showed him the check and he says to me--he didn't even say it to me. He looked at my mother and he says, I guess he's going to be okay. That was it. So they knew that I could make it with the skills that I had.$I know that there was a friend of mine and he was a long time, he left the company [Ginn and Company], but he was the first black salesman and so forth. The Ginn always had, and other publishing companies always have black salesmen. These are the people that can go into the black neighborhoods and these are the people that can go into certain areas that maybe a lot of white people might not want to go into and so forth so they were always there. The--there's a little story there too. Many years ago, working for a company, we got a call from Detroit [Michigan] and Detroit was reading the riot act to every publisher in the entire country. And what they were saying was that we just don't like how books are presenting our life and so forth. I mean there was still--because there was no one else there to say you're wrong. I mean there were people there that had jobs but they didn't know what our culture was like or what things that we liked. They only saw that from maybe the shows that they saw on television, so there was a lot of bad stuff going out there. But Ginn made it a point since I was there to use me as best they could to fill in those gaps, to train them so to speak. And I can recall going into, flying out one night to Detroit. I mean it was a last minute thing, rush, rush, rush. Get on, you know get out of here. So I got there and there's this meeting of all--our salesmen now are coming in. This is serious. I mean we, we're spend--I mean revenue's coming out of Michigan was several hundred thousand dollars and now Detroit's saying we don't want you anymore to everybody. So the next day we went to the Superintendent's office, a big building in Detroit and the school board, cause I was there once before, but the school board was never that many blacks. I think the--on the dais then it was probably about, out of the ten or twelve people there, there was probably about nine blacks and so forth. And one fellow who I can't recall his name now but he stood up and he says "I know who you all are out there" because there was a sea of black people there. Where did they, all these people come from? He says, "I know who you are." He says "you're all the salesmen they can find to send out here." I mean we're talking about three or four hundred people in this audience. He says, "Is there anyone here that represents the editorial side of things, anyone here that call the shots?" So I was sitting in this row of people and I can remember one of the VPs of sales, he kind of leaned over and looked down past seven or eight people to where I was sitting, I caught his eye and it was like telling me, get up, get up. And so, not a public speaker, I got up and they wanted to know who I was. And I told them that I was the person who put the right things in the books for our children and I believe that Ginn and Company does a great job. I can't speak for the other companies here. I was going to put in as much as I could but this is what we're doing and so forth. And he says well thank you very, very much. Is there anyone else? There was nobody else. And even today, there's nobody else really out there that did what I did, okay. So I can feel you know somewhat comfortable but I get very upset, myself, when I look around me and I see that some of our boys and girls are not really doing the things that they should be doing. Again my parents without--with a seventh grade education knew that education was key to the whole thing.