Including Seminal African-American Artists in the Humanities

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  • Title: Including Seminal African-American Artists in the Humanities
  • Author(s): Gay Sweely, Gwendolyn N. Graham
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies
  • Keywords: African-American Art, African-American History, African-American Art Education, Adding African-American Art in the Humanities, Harlem Renaissance Art
  • Volume: 15
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2017
  • ISSN: 2327-0055 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2376 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Sweely, Gay, and Gwendolyn N. Graham. 2017. "Including Seminal African-American Artists in the Humanities." The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies 15 (1): 13-29. doi:10.18848/2327-0055/CGP/v15i01/13-29.
  • Extent: 17 pages


African-American artists have sought recognition of their various artistic endeavors for nearly 400 years in the New World. Slavery was a dehumanizing act that will always reside sadly in our personal history. The African slave trade played a large role in how society views African-American artists and their art today. Along with an early negative perception, we can see how the African diaspora positively affected American art today. At first, these early artisans were exposed to European art forms, and they adapted these art forms to their own artworks. However, experimentation would eventually lead these artisans, artists, and crafts people to infuse their art forms with a mixture of West African, European, and American cultural ideas. A number of seminal African-American artists will be examined, beginning with Robert S. Duncanson in Cincinnati in the mid-1850s to Henry Ossawa Tanner and Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller in the late nineteenth century. This artistic examination will then continue into the twentieth century and beyond. Thus, this overview will also include the artists during the pivotal Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s, concluding with an examination of contemporary artists, such as Robert Colescott and Faith Ringgold. This article serves as a presentation of works, along with historical references, that cover the achievements of the leading African-American artists for more than 200 years in the American cultural art scene.