Pathfinders are guides to library resources for a variety of topics. The first topic we’re covering is African Americans in the Arts. This list, gathered by Teresa, an adult services reference librarian, includes items available in our collection as well as websites that are free to access. Whether you’re doing research or just want to learn more, we’ve got the information you need!


A Hungry Heart: a Memoir by Gordon Parks – 770.92 PAR

Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was a photographer and photojournalist, a film director, musician, and writer. In this, his final book, Parks reflects on his career and personal life from his early days as the first black photojournalist for Life magazine, the civil rights movement, and his travels around the world.

Augusta Savage, Renaissance Woman by Jeffreen M. Hayes – 709.04 HAY

Augusta Savage (1892-1962) overcame poverty and racism to become one of the most distinguished female sculptors and educators of the 20th century. This visual exploration of her life features full color plates of her work and those of the black artists she mentored and influenced, such as Jacob Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, and Charles Alston.

African American Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum by Gwen Everett – 704.0396073 EVE

Highlighted in this book are the works by 20th century American black artists in the collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The collection includes artists in all media including photography, painting, sculpture, and mixed media and features works by Jules Allen, Romare Bearden, William H. Johnson, Horace Pippen, Faith Ringgold, and many others.

Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America – 704.0396073 HAR

1920s Harlem was “the cultural capital of Black America” and was home to many talented Black artists. In Harlem Renaissance, essays and illustrations pay tribute to such artists as Palmer Hayden, Malvin Gray Johnson and Meta Warrick Fuller. The book includes many photographs documenting Harlem in the 1920s taken by the Black documentary photographer James Van Der Zee.

Charles White: a Retrospective edited by Sarah Kelly Oehler and Esther Adler – 704.0396 CHA

This catalog of the art work of Charles White (1918-1979) includes reproductions of his drawings, prints and photographs. Essays document his life and provide discussions of his creative process, techniques, and subject matter.

Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject by Kirsten Pai Buick – 730.92 LEW

Child of Fire explores the life and works of 19th century artist/sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis. Edmonia was of African American and Native America heritage and was born free around 1845. The author interprets several of Lewis’s best known sculptures, their themes, inspirations, and cultural context.

Alma Thomas edited by Ian Berry and Lauren Haynes – 759.13 THO

Alma Thomas started her career as a painter when she was 68 and retired from teaching. At the age of 80 she was the first black female artist to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This book provides page after brilliant page of her colorful and mosaic-like paintings.

Kerry James Marshall by Charles Gaines, Greg Tate, and Laurence Rassel – 759.13 MAR

This is a full color catalog of the paintings by Chicago based artist Kerry James Marshall. Included are essays analyzing Marshall’s works whose style ranges from abstracts and comics to realism. There is also an interview between Marshall and Los Angeles based artist Charles Gaines.

Basquiat: a Quick Killing in Art by Phoebe Hoban – 760.9 BAS

Hoban chronicles the short life of painter Jean-Michel Basquiat who went from being a teenage graffiti artist to an international art star in the 1980s. She follows his trajectory from troubled childhood to his rise as a successful artist and ultimately to his burnout and death at the age of 27 from a drug overdose.

Painting Harlem Modern: the Art of Jacob Lawrence by Patricia Hills – 759.13 HIL

The bold colors and cubist-based style of the paintings by Jacob Lawrence identify him as one of the best know African American artists of the 20th century. Author Patricia Hills provides a well-researched analysis and discussion of the artist’s works and places them in their cultural and political context. The book includes an abundance of color plates.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, American Artist by Marcia M. Mathews – 759.13 TAN

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was born and studied art in Philadelphia but spent the majority of his painting career in Paris where his race would not hinder his ambition. Tanner is best known for his painting The Banjo Lesson. This biography gives a full account of his life and his art.

An American Odyssey: the Life and Work of Romare Bearden by Mary Schmidt Campbell – 700.92 BEA 2018

Romare Bearden (1911-1988) was best known for his large public murals and collages. In her biography of Bearden, the author Mary Schmidt Campbell focuses on his evolution as an artist from his career as a political cartoonist, a painter, and eventually his collages depicting contemporary Black life in America.


National Gallery of Art

Explore a selection of works by African American artists in the collection at the National Gallery of Art. Find information about the artists by clicking on the full color images of paintings, photographs, works on paper, and sculpture.

My Modern Met

Features “6 Groundbreaking African American Artists Who Have Made History” with a color reproduction of one of the works by each artist and brief biographical information. The six featured artists are Joshua Johnson (18th and 19th centuries), Augusta Savage, Jacob Lawrence, Jean-Michelle Basquiat, Kara Walker, and Kehinde Wiley (portrait of President Barack Obama).

Black Art in America

Black Art in America is an online portal and network focused on African American art and artists. It features articles about all aspects of Black art including collecting Black art. It also includes videos and podcasts and an archive of selected posts going back to March 2014.



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