Fallen Through The Cracks – A Look at History’s Underrated Black Art Pioneers

Fallen Through The Cracks – Annie Pettway Lewis Bendolph

May 31st – FallenThroughTheCracks – Annie Pettway Lewis Bendolph was born between 1892 and 1900 in rural Alabama. She was a textile artist and one of the esteemed quilters of the Gee’s Bend Quilters collective, a group of African American women who gained international recognition for their unique quilting style and craftsmanship. Her mother passed away when she was a young child. She had one sibling, Timothy, who sang in gospel choirs in the neighboring town of Camden, Alabama.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Robert Hamilton Blackburn

May 22nd – FallenThroughTheCracks – Robert Hamilton Blackburn was born on December 12, 1920, in Summit, New Jersey, but grew up in Harlem, where his family moved when he was seven years old. He was an artist, teacher, and master printmaker. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he worked on the literary magazine The Magpie as a writer and artist alongside his counterpart James Baldwin.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Ruth Waddy

May 18th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Ruth Gilliam Waddy was born Willanna Ruth Gilliam on January 7, 1909, in Lincoln, Nebraska, and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was an American artist, printmaker, activist, and editor who was known for her practice of linocut printmaking and was in her fifties when she turned to art as a career. Her highly contracted prints featured stories about African-American visibility.

Fallen Through The Cracks – William Henry Johnson

May 16th – FallenThroughTheCracks – William Henry Johnson was born on March 18, 1901, in Florence, South Carolina. He was a painter who worked with a variety of media, often just using the materials that were available on hand to create his work. His works emphasized vivid and vibrant colors alongside simplistic figures. His depictions of African American culture were pulled from his upbringing in the rural South.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Nancy Elizabeth Prophet

May 15th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Nancy Elizabeth Prophet was born on March 19, 1890, in Warwick, Rhode Island. She was an artist of African-American and Native-American ancestry, known specifically for her sculpture. In 1914, at the age of 24, Prophet enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. She was the only African American student and graduate amongst a predominantly white female school population. After graduation, She attempted to find work as a portrait painter full-time but was unsuccessful.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Merton Simpson

May 11th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Merton Simpson was born on September 20, 1928, in Charleston, South Carolina. He was an abstract expressionist painter and African and tribal art collector and dealer. Growing up in a segregated South, Simpson was not allowed to take art classes at the city-run Gibbes Gallery where his mentor artist William Melton Halsey worked. In 1949, his wife Corrie, and former director of the Charleston Museum, Laura Bragg, sponsored his first solo art show. They held two separate receptions; “one for whites and one for whites who didn’t mind coming to a reception with blacks.”

Fallen Through The Cracks – Valerie Jean Maynard

May 10th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Valerie Jean Maynard was born on August 22, 1937, in New York City, NY. She was a sculptor, teacher, printmaker, and designer who addressed themes of social inequality and the civil rights movement.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Geoffrey Holder

May 8th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Geoffrey Lamont Holder was born on August 1, 1930, in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He was an actor, dancer, musician, and artist. He was educated at Tranquility School and Queen’s Royal College in Port of Spain but made his performance debut at seven years old in his brother Boscoe Holder’s dance company.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Tina Allen

May 5th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Tina Allen was born Tina Powell on December 9, 1949m in Hempstead, New York. She was a sculptor known for her monuments to prominent African Americans. Her sculpture focused on writing black history in bronze and emphasizing the contributions and aspirations of the #AfricanDiaspora. She was 13 years old when she began sculpting. Instead of following the assignment to make an ashtray, she made a bust of Aristotle instead.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Don Hogan Charles

May 4th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Don Hogan Charles was born “Daniel James Charles” on September 9, 1938, in New York City. He studied engineering at City College of New York before dropping out to pursue photography. He was the first African-American staff photographer hired by The New York Times. He remained on staff for 43 years until his retirement in 2007.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Varnette Patricia Honeywood

May 3rd – FallenThroughTheCracks – Varnette Patricia Honeywood was born on December 27, 1950, in Los Angeles, CA. She was a painter, writer, and businesswoman who created paintings and collages depicting African-American life. She is highly regarded for her use of color and light, patterns, and textures. Creating positive visual images for Black children became one of her major goals. She focused on the history of African Americans, their sufferings and triumphs, and celebrates the strength and leadership of Black women. She often described her work as “figurative abstraction.”

Fallen Through The Cracks – Frederick James Brown

May 2nd – FallenThroughTheCracks – Frederick James Brown was born on February 6, 1945, in Greensboro, Georgia. His family moved to Chicago and he was near the steel mills on Chicago’s Southside. There, he was exposed to the blues by musicians in the neighborhood such as #MuddyWaters and #HowlinWolf. Brown attended Chicago Vocational High School and then attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale, graduating in 1968 with a degree in Art.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Clementine Hunter

May 1st – FallenThroughTheCracks – Clementine Hunter was born in late December 1886 or early January 1887, at Hidden Hill Plantation, near Cloutierville in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. She was a self-taught folk artist from the Cane River region of Louisiana, who lived and worked on Melrose Plantation. She started working as a farm laborer when young, and never learned to read or write but began to sell her paintings depicting Black Southern life in her fifties which gained local and national attention.

Fallen Through The Cracks – John Woodrow Wilson

Apr 28th – FallenThroughTheCracks – John Woodrow Wilson in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1922. He was a lithographer, sculptor, painter, muralist, and art teacher whose art was prompted by the social and political climate of his era. His work portrays themes of social justice and equality. Wilson was endorsed for his capability to unite his artistic creativity with his passion for politics and social justice.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Dr. Samella Lewis

Apr 27th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Dr. Samella Lewis was born ​​Samella Sanders Lewis on February 27, 1923, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was a visual artist and art historian who worked primarily as a printmaker and painter. She has been referred to as the “Godmother of African American Art”.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Herbert Gentry

Apr 26th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Herbert Alexander Gentry was born on July 17, 1919, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His family moved to New York City and Gentry grew up in the city with The Harlem Renaissance as the backdrop. He pursued drawing in school and took art classes at the Harlem YMCA and later studied art as part of the Federal Art Project of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) at Roosevelt High School.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Gwendolyn Knight

Apr 25th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Gwendolyn Clarine Knight was born on May 26, 1913, in Bridgetown, Barbados, in the West Indies.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Arthur P. Bedou

Apr 24th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Arthur Paul Bedou was born on July 6, 1882, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was a photographer who documented the life of black residents in New Orleans and was a personal photographer of Booker T. Washington who photographed the last decade of his life.

Fallen Through The Cracks – Camille Billops

Apr 20th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Camille Josephine Billops was born on August 12, 1933, in Los Angeles, CA. She was a sculptor, filmmaker, archivist, printmaker, and educator whose primary visual art medium was sculpture. She later experimented with photography, printmaking, and painting.