Black History Facts

The Greater Baltimore Section of the NCNW proudly honors the people and events that have had a huge impact in the African-American community during our 2022 Black History Month Celebration.
We have partnered with the Enoch Pratt Free Library to provide daily historical facts for you to review and share with your friends and family. Knowledge is POWER and remember…..Black History IS AMERICAN History!
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In 1926, the Historian Carter G. Woodson arranged for an organization he co-founded, then known as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, to sponsor its first annual Negro History Week during the second week in February.
This week was chosen because it contained the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, which were already days of celebration back then.
In 1972 it was decided that Negro History Week should be called Black History Week, and by 1976, the amount of time it is observed was extended to a month, creating Black History Month.
Woodson also created the Journal of Negro History in 1916, which is still being published today under the title Journal of African American History. #ncnw #gbsncnw #blackhistorymonth
The Ferguson Riots refer to a series of events in Ferguson, Missouri that occured in August 2014 proceeding the murder of 18 year old Michael Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson.
Brown, a Black man, was shot to death after Wilson (a White officer) confronted him on the street. Beginning the day after Brown’s death and lasting for several months, individuals in Fergueson marched, rallied, and demonstrated to protest racial bias in law enforcement and other systematic racial inequities.
While many of the protests were non-violent, other altercations between police and protestors occurred that involved arson, looting, assault, and property destruction. Law enforcement officials in Ferguson were heavily criticized for their overly- militarized response to the unrest.
In November 2014, a grand jury agreed with Officer Wilson’s contention that he had acted in self defense and declined to indict him on any criminal charges related to Brown’s death. Another wave of protests and rioting broke out in and around Ferguson.
An investigation by the United States Department of Justice concluded that the Ferguson Police Department and Municipal Court system routinely violated the constitutional rights of Black citizens of Ferguson. The riots further catalyzed the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement.
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The Cambridge riots (1963) occurred during the Summer of 1963 in Cambridge, Maryland, a town along the Eastern Shore of Maryland. African Americans demanded an end to discriminatory practices in public accommodations, equal employment opportunities, and fair housing. The Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC) led by Gloria Richardson and the local chapter of the Student Coordinating Committee (SNCC) played key roles in what ultimately would lead to the desegregation of Cambridge. When failed negotiations between city officials and CNAC over continuing discriminatory policies went unresolved, there was an escalation of protests, sit-ins, boycotts and arrest. On July 11 and 12 there were violent clashes between blacks and whites, the burning of buildings and gunfire.  African Americans were harassed and beaten in a sit-in at Dizzyland restaurant.  After two days of public disorder, the Maryland National Guard was deployed to Cambridge, where they would remain until May, 1964.  
The 2015 Baltimore protests, sometimes referred to as the Baltimore Riots or the Baltimore Uprising, occurred in April 2015 following the death of a 25 year old Black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody.  Gray’s death and the accompanying protests served as a flashpoint in the contemporary Black Lives Matter Movement.    
Upon learning of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Gray’s fatal injuries, city residents organized public demonstrations drawing attention to a long history of police mistreatment and unnecessary force used against Black citizens of Baltimore.  
After Gray’s funeral on April 27, skirmishes broke out between high school students and Baltimore City police after officials closed a major transportation hub students typically used to travel home.  That afternoon and into the evening, large demonstrations took place largely centered around Baltimore’s historically Black Penn North neighborhood.  Residents clashed with police, and several buildings were set on fire and looted.  The Maryland Governor proclaimed a State of Emergency and deployed the National Guard.   In subsequent days thousands of people peacefully marched through Baltimore’s streets calling for significant police reform.   Officials eventually charged six Baltimore City police officers in connection with Gray’s death but after a judge found 2 of the officers not guilty, charges were dropped against all officers.   
“Emancipation Day in South Carolina” – the Color-Sergeant of the 1st South Carolina (Colored) Volunteers addressing the regiment, after having been presented with the Stars and Stripes, at Smith’s plantation, Port Royal Island, January 1 / From a sketch by our special artist. – digital file from original | Library of Congress (
Emancipation Day, sometimes called Jubilee Day, commemorates January 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became effective, freeing slaves in states and areas in rebellion against the United States.
Alternatively, some communities celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, the anniversary of the date it was issued. The holiday was well celebrated into the 20th century, but died down around the 1950s and 1960s when attention was turned to addressing the issues of the Civil Rights Movement.
Local anniversaries of freedom being imparted are also observed under the name Emancipation Day, such as April 16th in the District of Columbia, and November 1st in Maryland.
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THE OCOOEE MASSACRE The Ocoee Massacre refers to the murder of African Americans in Ocoee, Florida on November 2, 1920 by white supremacist’s intent on intimidating and suppressing Black voters. It is considered one of the worst incidents of mass racial terror that occurred during the nadir of race relations.

Despite clear threats of racial violence and a visible Ku Klux Klan presence, Black residents of Ocoee attempted to vote at the polls on Election Day in 1920. Moses Norman, a prominent community member who had organized voter registration drives, was one of many Black residents turned away by poll workers. After lodging official complaints of voter suppression with a local judge, Norman returned to the polls and again attempted to vote.

White supremacists assaulted Norman and chased him to the home of fellow community organizer Julius “July” Perry. Norman escaped, but the white mob– led by the former police Chief of Orlando– attacked Perry and his family, eventually dragging Perry from a prison cell, lynching him and leaving his body hanging from a light post.

After receiving reinforcements from neighboring towns, the white mob proceeded to destroy the Black community of Ocoee, burning dozens of residences, schools, and churches, killing an untold number of people (estimates range from 30-80 individuals), and forcing nearly all Black residents to permanently flee.

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The Central Park Five was a high profile case which fueled discussions on race relations, racial profiling, and crime policies in New York city.
On the night of April 19, 1989, Trisha Meili, a 28-year old white woman known only as “the Central Park jogger” was attacked, raped, sodomized and beaten. Five Black and Latino youth who came to be known as the Central Park Five –Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise – were among those arrested on suspicion of being involved in the jogger’s attack.
These teenagers were arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime, but another man confessed to raping the woman more than a decade later, leading to the teens’ convictions to be overturned.
Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed television miniseries “When They See Us” (2019) is based on the events of the Central Park jogger and explores the lives and the families of the Black and Latino suspects who were falsely accused of a crime they never committed.
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The National Black Political Convention, also known as the Gary Convention, took place from March 10 to March 12 in 1972, in Gary, Indiana.
The Congressional Black Caucus was the official convener, and the event was co-chaired by writer-activist Amiri Baraka of the Congress of African Peoples, the mayor of Gary, Richard G. Hatcher, and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Charles C. Diggs.
The convention brought together 8,000 African Americans of various political leanings under the theme “Unity Without Uniformity”. Delegates included Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Julian Bond, Barbara Jordan, Richard Roundtree, Betty Shabazz, and Coretta Scott King.
Examples of goals discussed include: the government’s assurance of a minimum annual income of $5,200, the elimination of capital punishment, the provision of day care for all working parents, geriatric centers for the elderly, and programs for black farmers. For more information on the convention’s goals, seek out a 55 page document called the “Action Agenda for Black People”.
Delegates of the convention are credited with pressuring the Nixon administration to implement versions of several of their policy ideas, including affirmative action, business funding, and welfare reform. However, the Congressional Black Caucus, most Black elected officials, and the leaders of the prominent civil rights organizations found the platform of the convention to be too radical and nationalist and decided to no longer be associated with the convention.
The convention would reconvene in later years, even creating a National Black Independent Political Party in 1984, however, disagreement between Black Nationalists and Black Marxists over whether Jesse Jackson should be endorsed for president was the party’s downfall.
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The Buffalo Soldiers were the first African American army regiments established by the U.S. government after the Civil War.
Originally consisting of 2 cavalry units and 4 infantry regiments, the soldiers were tasked with protecting American interests on the frontier. From 1866-1916, they helped to develop the American West by building roads, enforcing laws, serving as the first National Park rangers, and waging military battles against Native American tribes that led to their displacement and relocation on reservations established by the U.S. government.
Sources suggest several different explanation for the origin of their name. Some suggest that Native Americans called Black soldiers “buffalo soldiers” because of their short curly hair (reminiscent of the buffalo’s shaggy fur) or because of the buffalo robes the soldier wore to keep warm in the winter months.
Others suggest the name was an honorific bestowed on them by Native Americans who observed a similarity between their bravery and perseverance on the battlefield and the stamina and courage of the American bison.
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The daughter of former slaves, Mary Jane McLeod Bethune became one of the most important black educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials of the twentieth century.
The college she founded, Bethune-Cookman College, set educational standards for today’s black colleges, and her role as an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave African Americans an advocate in government.
A champion of racial and gender equality, Bethune founded many organizations and led voter registration drives after women gained the vote in 1920, risking racist attacks.
🟣 In 1924, she was elected president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
🟣In 1935, she became the founding president of the National Council of Negro Women.
🟣In 1936, Bethune became the highest ranking African American woman in government when President Franklin Roosevelt named her director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, where she remained until 1944.
🟣In 1937 Bethune organized a conference on the Problems of the Negro and Negro Youth, and fought to end discrimination and lynching.
🟣In 1940, she became vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP), a position she held for the rest of her life. As a member of the advisory board that in 1942 created the Women’s Army Corps, Bethune ensured it was racially integrated. Appointed by President Harry S. Truman, Bethune was the only woman of color at the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945. She regularly wrote for the leading African American newspapers, the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender.
Bethune’s life was celebrated with a memorial statue in Washington DC in 1974, and a postage stamp in 1985. Her final residence is a National Historic Site. #herstory #ncnw #gbsncnw #blackhistory
OTIH In 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond, four A&T freshmen students, walked downtown and “sat – in” at the whites–only lunch counter at F.W. Woolworth’s store. T When they denied service, they refused to leave and stayed until the store closed. As a result of their courageous actions the desegregation of the Woolworth’s lunch counter in July 1960 made an important impact in civil rights history. #AggiePride
Cathay Williams served in the Civil War posing as a male soldier. Williams was the first African American woman to enlist and the only documented woman to serve in the United States Army, while disguised as a man, during the Indian Wars. Williams is also the only known female Buffalo Soldier. Williams’ determination to serve her country demonstrates the extraordinary feats women have accomplished simply trying to live their lives.

(Credit: Repost from @ncnw_hq
The Black Panther Party
The Black Panthers’ first and most successful community program was the Free Breakfast Program for Children.  The Panthers started the Free Breakfast Program because hunger and poverty made it difficult for many poor black children to learn in school.
The program was initiated at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland in January 1969.  Bobby Seale planned the program with Father Earl Neil and Ruth Beckford-Smith, who coordinated the program and recruited neighborhood mothers.    
The Breakfast Program quickly spread to chapters in 23 cities by the end of the year.  Local businesses, churches and community-based organizations donated (sometimes with community pressure) space for the program and nutritious food like eggs, grits, toast, and milk.  The Panthers fed more than 20,000 children nationally in 1969.  By 1971, at least 36 cities had a breakfast program.
 The Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program focused national attention on the urgent need to give poor children nutritious meals so they could be successful in school. The Panther’s Program spotlighted the limited scope of the national School Breakfast Program and helped pressure Congress to authorize expansion of the program to all public schools in 1975
The Royal Theatre
The Royal Theatre originally opened its doors as the black owned Douglass Theatre on February 15, 1922.  Struggling financially, the theatre was purchased by whites and renamed The Royal on November 30, 1930.  According to journalist James “Biddy” Wood, the Royal Theatre was “a citadel for the finest black entertainers, who could not showcase their exceptional talents elsewhere in Jim Crow America.”
The Royal was on what was to be known as the “Chillin Circuit,” venues which allowed black entertainers to earn a living in the segregated world, which they often found themselves.
The Royal hosted all sorts of events and played films as well.  The first motion picture featuring an all-black cast, “The Scar of Shame,” was shown at the Royal in 1929.and was one of the earliest films produced for black audiences.
Marion Anderson, the great contralto, who was denied permission to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. appeared on the Royal’s stage in February 1931.  Louie Armstrong on a national tour came to Baltimore and also performed at the Royal at the end of 1931.  Even the boxer, Jack Johnson would give a boxing exhibition on stage.
Among some of the many notable entertainers who performed over the years at the Royal, there were none other than: Duke Ellington, Cab Callaway, Ethel Waters, Etta James, Nate King Cole, Pearl Bailey, Fats Waller, Count Bassie, Moms Mabley, and Red Foxx.   Later groups, such as the Platters, Temptations and the Supremes also played at the Royal.
With the doors finally opening for African American entertainers in many other venues, this storied history would end in1970 with the closing of the Royal.
The Orchard Street Church
The Orchard Street United Methodist Church is a historic Black church established in Baltimore’s Seton Hill community by Truman Pratt, a former enslaved man.  In 1825, after purchasing his freedom, Pratt began hosting prayer services in his home nearby, and later worked with fellow freemen to organize the first congregation. Free and enslaved African American laborers built the first Church structure in 1837, with additions constructed in 1863 and 1865.  Prominent Black ministers including the abolitionist William Watkins and John Forte preached at Orchard Street.  By 1882, the Church had outgrown its space and a new building was constructed on the site.
The Church functioned as an important gathering place for the African American community.  The congregation hosted conferences, educational and political forums, reunions of the U.S. Colored Troops, and national meetings of the Women’s Colored Association.   Church members included some of Baltimore’s most prominent Black Baltimoreans, such as James Harris, the owner of the largest African American catering business in the South, and Harry Sythe Cummings, Baltimore’s first African American council person.   In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the church while campaigning for president. 
In 1972 shortly after the congregation moved to another facility, the building caught fire.  The property remained in a state of decay until 1992 when the city and state collaborated to fund a comprehensive restoration.  In 1992 the Greater Baltimore Urban League (GBUL) moved in, and today the GBUL uses the space for a variety of community programming.  It is listed on the National Register of Historical Places as one of the earliest AME churches.  
Despite stories suggesting the Orchard Street Church was a stop on the Underground Railroad, no written evidence has yet been discovered to substantiate the claim.   
William A. Hawkins
William Ashbie Hawkins was a prominent African American lawyer in Baltimore.  Born in 1862 in Virginia, Hawkins graduated from Centenary Bible College (today known as Morgan State) and Howard University Law school.  
Hawkins established his Baltimore law firm with partner George McMechen.  He devoted his legal practic to advocating for equal rights and ending racial discrimination, and he successfully argued several court cases contesting the constitutionality of Baltimore City’s 1910-1913 segregation ordinances.   Hawkins brought the Chesapeake, Baltimore, and Atlantic railway company to court in order to contest the unequal sleeping and eating accommodations for Black people traveling on Chesapeake steamships.  In 1917 Hawkins filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP in Buchanan vs. Warley, a U.S.  Supreme Court case that resulted in the overturning of residential segregation ordinances in several states. 
Like the majority of Black voters in the early 20th century, Hawkins was a Republican but he publicly criticized his party for taking the Black vote for granted.  He was nominated for Senate by a group of independent Republicans in 1920, but was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid.  
Hawkins died in 1941 and is buried at Mt. Auburn Cemetery.
 Info on the first annual conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church that was held in Baltimore in 1817
The first annual conference of the African Methodist Episcopal church met in Baltimore on April 12, 1817. The first session was held at the home of Nicholas Gilliard on Low Street. Bishop Richard Allen presided over the affair. Some appointments were made, but Rev. Daniel Coker did not get one because there were rumors about him. Additional ministers that were present include Rev. David Smith, Rev. James Towson, Rev. Edward Waters, Rev. Joseph Clare, Rev. Henry Harden. A steward by the name of  Mr. Don Carlos Hall was also in attendance.
 Another  session was held at the home of Samuel Williams on High Street. Bishop Allen presided over that meeting as well, and it was attended by Rev. Daniel Coker, Rev. Richard Williams, Rev. Edward Waters, Rev. Henry Harden, and steward Don Carlos Hall. Rev. Jacob Tapsico and Rev. James Champion came down to attend from Philadelphia. Charles Pierce, Edward Waters, and Henry Harden were selected to become Deacons. Progress toward acquiring additional church property at Sculltown and Mt. Gilboa in Baltimore County was made. 
_SR16879 | Juneteenth 6-15-19 | Governor Jim Justice | Flickr
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863, declared freedom for the slaves in states that were in rebellion with the Union. However, reinforcement was needed, and for Galveston, TX, it came two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865 in the form of General Gordon Granger, backed by Union troops, reading General Orders No. 3 on the balcony of Ashton Villa, the former headquarters of the Texas Confederate Army. Of course the annual celebrations of freedom began immediately, but it wasn’t until the early 1890s that we got the term Juneteenth, an amalgamation of the words June and 19th. Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day, became a federal holiday in 2021. The earliest commemorations were held in rural areas or church grounds. Former slaves cast their clothes into the water and dressed up in new garments taken from their former plantations. They sang songs, especially spirituals like “Many Thousands Gone” and “Go Down, Moses”. They even had fireworks, created by cutting holes in trees, and filling them with gunpowder. Historically, Juneteenth has been a day of education and self-improvement, including elders recounting events of the past, prayer services, and discussions of political topics such as voting rights. There are also fun activities such as horseback riding, rodeos, baseball, fishing, pageants, and parades. The barbeque pit was often the center of attention and food was abundant because everyone prepared a dish. Red colored food became a tradition including strawberry soda, watermelon, red punch, and red velvet cake because red symbolizes resilience.  
Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur (born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 -September 13, 1996, 1996) was a celebrated hip-hop artist and actor from New York City.  Before his untimely death, he would reach critical acclaim for his performances as both a rapper and as an actor.  Although he did not graduate from high school, he attended both the Baltimore School for the Arts and Dunbar High School.  While attending the Baltimore School for the Arts, he would become a classmate and lifelong friend of the future actress Jada Pinkett.  While later living in California, he would receive his G.E.D.  Shakur was one of the best-selling artists of his generation, selling over 75 million records worldwide.  Some of his music was deeply rooted in addressing contemporary social issues and the inequalities of inner-city life.  His albums Me Against the World (1995) and All Eyez on Me (1996) were hits on the music charts.  He also gave standout performances as an actor in Juice (1992) as well as in Poetic Justice (1993).  In 2017, Shakur was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2022, he was inducted into the Hip-Hop hall of Fame.  Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Shakur among the 100 greatest artists of all time.

Reginald F. Lewis
 Reginald F. Lewis was born on December 7, 1942 to Clinton Lewis, a small business owner, and Carolyn Cooper, a waitress and department store clerk. Lewis’ father abandoned the family, and his parents divorced when he was six. By 1951, his mother remarried to Jean Fugett, Sr., an employee of both the Department of Defense and the Postal Service. He gained three half brothers and two half sisters. Lewis was a stand out athlete at Dunbar High School where he was captain of the baseball, basketball, and football teams. He was invited to play baseball professionally, for the Washington Senators, but he decided to attend Virginia State College (now called Virginia State University) on a football scholarship. He was a quarterback before he became sidelined with a shoulder injury his freshman year. He earned a degree in Economics there, and one in law from Harvard in 1968. He worked at a prestigious Manhattan law firm for a while, but left after two years to start his own firm in 1973, called Murphy, Thorpe, and Lewis. It was the first African American law firm on Wall Street.
He would eventually leave law for finance, and in 1984 under his TLC Group, he bought out McCall’s, a sewing pattern company for an estimated $24.5 million. Under his leadership as chief executive the company had its two most profitable years in its 113-year history. After three years, he sold the company for $95 million, earning himself and his partners a ninety-to-one return on their original investment, profiting $50 million himself. On December 1, 1987 he made history by purchasing Beatrice International, a grocery products conglomerate and food distributor with 64 companies in 31 countries for $985 million. That year it was reported as having $1.8 billion in revenue, making it the first black-owned business to pass the billion-dollar mark. Forbes magazine estimated Lewis’ net worth to be $400 million in 1992. Lewis was looking into acquiring the Chrysler Corporation and Paramount Pictures before his death from brain cancer on January 19, 1993 at 50. He is also remembered for his philanthropy, for example, he gave his alma mater Harvard Law School $3 million, which was the largest single gift the school had ever received. He left behind a wife, Loida Lewis, and two daughters.
Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray
Pauli Murray was born November, 20, 1910 in Baltimore, MD. She graduated from Hunter College in New York City in 1933 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Murray graduated Howard Law at the top of her class, earning the Rosenfeld Fellowship which usually affords one the opportunity to do graduate work at Harvard, however she was rejected matriculation on account of her gender. Though her appeals to change their mind were vehement, she was unsuccessful. This is just one example of her lifetime of activism in women’s rights and racial civil rights. She went on to attain her L.L.M. degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1945. Then she would become California’s first black deputy attorney general in 1946. By 1961 she went to Yale University in order to work on a doctorate in juridical science, becoming the first African American to earn one in 1965. A year later she helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW). 
She was also a college professor and poet. At 62, she entered the master of divinity degree program at General Theological Seminary in New York City, and went on to become the first African American woman to be an Episcopal priest on January 8, 1977. She began at the Episcopal Church of the Atonement in Washington, D.C., but also served as priest at the Church of the Holy Nativity in Baltimore, before she retired in 1984. She moved to Pittsburgh where she would die of pancreatic cancer on July 1, 1985, while working on her autobiography that was published posthumously as Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage. Thurgood Marshall referred to her first book, States Laws on Race and Color, as his “bible” in his work on the Brown v. the Board of Education case. She has been recognized as a saint by the Episcopal Church.

The United States Supreme Court in Brown v Board of Education (1954) ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in its landmark decision.  The precursor of school integration in Baltimore city was the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, which admitted its first African American students in 1952.

The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute offered an exceptional college preparatory program, which was unlike any other curriculum available in any of the city’s black schools.  This was a very prestigious program which included calculus, analytical chemistry, electricity, and mechanics among other related subjects.

Following the Supreme Court’s momentous decision of May 17, 1954, the school board decided to continue with its free choice enrollment system. This meant that Baltimore parents could select any school for their children to attend, unless there was an issue of overcrowding.

 Integration was not welcomed at all public schools in Baltimore. Perhaps, the most notable case was Southern High School where hundreds of students picketed and shouted their objections to desegregation. There were fears among many that the violent protest of over a thousand would turn into a full-scale riot. Fortunately, a large group of police officers were able to keep the crowd under control.


[Caption: Romare Bearden’s mosaic entitled “A Baltimore Uproar” has been exhibited at the Upton Metro station in Baltimore City since 1982.]

Romare Bearden was a pioneering visual artist best known for his vivid collages depicting African American life.   Bearden was born in Charlotte, NC and moved to NYC as a child.  After graduating from NYU with a degree in mathematics, he attended art school. Bearden painted in his free time while employed as a social worker with the New York Department of Social Services.   His early paintings often depicted life in the Southern U.S and employed cubist and African styles. From 1935-1937, Bearden’s political cartoons appeared in the Baltimore Afro-American.    

After WWII, Bearden moved to Paris for two years where he was introduced to prominent European artists like Pablo Picasso as well as West African intellectuals such as Leopold Senghor who espoused Black empowerment through a celebration of African culture.   Profoundly affected by his experience abroad, Bearden returned to the U.S. and eventually began painting again, shifting from abstract art to more representational subjects.  He hosted meetings of the Spiral Group- an association of artists who discussed how their creative work fit into the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement.

In the 60’s Bearden began producing the large-scale collages for which he is most well-known.  His collages use a variety of brightly colored and patterned materials to document African American life, and commonly touch on the subjects of urban life, jazz music, religious rituals, the natural world and Southern culture.  Throughout his career, Bearden also composed music, wrote poetry and biographies of African American artists, directed community art associations, and taught at various schools and Universities.  His work has been displayed at MOMA, the Whitney, and the Institute of Art in Chicago.  Shortly before his death in 1988 President Reagan awarded Bearden the National Medal of Arts, a testament to his legacy as one of the most important modern artists.