Category: black history
This year, for Black History month, we salute not the political activists or barrier breakers, but some distinguished African-American painters, sculptors and photographers–accentuating, of course, those with the most interesting names.
These Black history names range in time from portrait painter Joshua Johnson, born in 1763 and viewed as the first person of color to make his living as an artist in America, to contemporary women artists like Lorna Simpson, Ellen Gallagher and Kara Walker who confront issues of race head-on in their work.
The following is, of course, just a small representation of the countless distinguished artists of color.
Augusta Savage— (b.1892), a sculptor who was part of the Harlem Renaissance. Students in her Harlem studio included Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight. She chose the unusual spelling of Agnus as her daughter’s name.
Chakaia Booker—(b.1953), an assemblage artist who has worked with a variety of materials, including black rubber tires, said to address African-American identity.
Clementine Hunter (b.1886)–pronounced clem-en-TEEN, just like Mrs. Winston Churchill– was originally named Clemence. A self-taught Louisiana Creole folk artist who began painting in her fifties, her work depicts plantation life in the early 20th century.
To commemorate Martin Luther King Day, we honor some of his fellow heroes and heroines of the civil rights movement. It would be impossible to list all of them, so here are some of the most worthy namesakes.
CLARA Luper – activist known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’
Actually, compiling this list was not as easy as you might think (or as it should be). Google and book searches tended to turn up only the usual suspects. And then, late as usual, I bought my 2009 calendar from the bargain bin: A Journey Into 365 Days of Black History — Notable Women.
An array of admirable women are listed there, all of whom would provide wonderful role models (and lovely names) for any child. The best:
BESSIE Coleman — In 1922, became the world’s only licensed black pilot. She staged flying exhibitions to fund a school to train black aviationists.
CHARLOTTE Ray — In 1872, became the first black female lawyer.
CONSTANCE Baker Motley — First black female federal judge.
FAYE Wattleton — Women’s rights activist.
JOSEPHINE Baker — Politically-minded entertainer who was the Angelina Jolie of her day.
KARA Walker — Artist best known for her silhouettes.
LENA Horne — Actress, singer, and civil rights activist.
MABEL Mercer — English singer.
MAHALIA Jackson — Gospel singer.
MARIAN Wright Edelman — Children’s Defense Fund founder.
NATALIE Hinderas — Composer and classical musician.
PEARL Bailey — Actress and singer.
PHILLIS Wheatley — First published African-American female poet. The name Phillis or Phyllis, the Roman goddess of spring, was typical of the classical names given to early African-Americans.
PRUDENCE Crandall — White woman arrested for teaching black girls at her school in 1833.
ROSA Parks — Heroine of the famous bus boycott that launched the civil rights movement.
RUBY Dee — Actress.
SHIRLEY Chisholm — First black woman elected to Congress.
SOJOURNER Truth — Abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
TONI Morrison — Novelist who won the Nobel Prize in literature.
WILMA Rudolph — Olympic runner.