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DESIGNING HISTORY

Early African American designers had to endure slavery throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. These early designers mainly worked as engravers and lithographers. 

After slavery, African American designers still faced mistreatment and prejudice. However, this didn’t stop them from creating, it pushed them to create great things.

The Harlem Renaissance was the name given to the cultural, social, and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem, New York that spanned the 1920s. During the time, it was known as the “New Negro Movement,” named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke.

The Movement also included the new African American cultural expressions across urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest United States. Civil rights activists used design, non violent protest and civil disobedience to bring about change, and the federal government made legislative headway with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Many leaders from within the African American community rose to prominence during the Civil Rights era. This chapter honors some of the African American designers that had to break a lot of barriers to be creative.

 

Albert Alexander Smith

Magazine Graphic Designer
1896–1940, New York City, NY

 
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Aaron Douglas

Graphic Designer for Black Magazines
1899–1979 Topeka, Kansas

 
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Emory Douglas

Graphic Designer for the Black Panthers
1943, San Francisco, CA

 
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Charles Henry Alston

Illustrator
1907–1977, Charlotte, NC

 
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Georg Olden

Illustrator
1920–1975, Birmingham, AL

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Jules Lion

Lithographer and Artist
1809–1866, New Orleans, LA

 
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Scipio Moorhead

Portrait Engraver
1777, Boston, MA

 
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Ruth Waddy

Printmaker
1909–2003, Lincoln, NA

 
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Caroline R. Jones

Creative Director
1942–2001, Benton Harbor, MI

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Patrick H. Reason

Lithographer and Artist
1816–1898, New York City, NY

 
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Selma Burke

Sculptor and Dime Designer
1900–1995, Mooresville, NC

 
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Lou Stovall

Printmaker
1937, Athens, GA

 
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Charles Dawson

Printmaker
1889–1981, Brunswick, GA