A leading visual artist of the Harlem Renaissance and a visual arts educator, Aaron Douglas was born May 26, 1899 in Topeka, Kansas to Aaron Douglas, Senior, a baker, and Elizabeth Douglas, artist. After attending Topeka High School, he attended free art classes at the Museum of Art in Detroit before going to the University of Nebraska, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts in 1922. En route to Paris via New York three years later Douglas began studying under German-American artist and graphic designer, Winold Reiss in Harlem. Welcomed by leaders of the New Negro Movement, he met influential writers, artists, and activists, among them James Weldon Johnson who invited Douglas to illustrate God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (New York: Viking Press, 1927).
Douglas wedded African art, cubism, and art deco in his work. Multiple art commissions followed, including murals for Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee where he taught art education from the 1930s and eventually became chairman of the department. He launched his first solo art exhibit in 1933 in New York at the D'Caz Delbo Gallery on Madison Avenue. Aaron Douglas retained an apartment in Harlem with his wife Alta, and with continuing presence, earned a Master of Arts from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1944.
The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.
- Through the Lorgnette Of Geraldyn Dismond: Aaron Douglas (1927, Jul 30). The Pittsburgh Courier (1911-1950)
- Aaron Douglas' New Fisk Murals Portray Progress: Tell Story Of Religion, Emancipation and Education. (1930, Oct 29). The New York Amsterdam News (1922-1938)
- Aaron Douglas Work Unveiled At Library: Murals Viewed As Program Is Given To Mark Official Opening Of Branch (1934, Nov 17). The New York Amsterdam News (1922-1938)
- Poston, T. R. (1934, Nov 24). Murals and Marx: Aaron Douglas Moves To the Left With PWA Decoration New Mural Unveiled In Assembly Hall Of Library. The New York Amsterdam News (1922-1938)
- Ottley, R. (1936, May 16). Hectic Harlem: Aaron Douglas, Artist. The New York Amsterdam News (1922-1938)
- Artist Aaron Douglas Guest Of Honor In Harlem. (1939, Feb 11). The Chicago Defender (National Edition) (1921-1967)
- Artist Shows Blacks As 'Proud, Majestic'. (1973, Feb 24). Chicago Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1973-1975)
- Bearden, R. (1979, Feb 24). A Final Farewell To Aaron Douglas. New York Amsterdam News (1962-1993)
- Paul, R. (1989, Apr 02). The Hopes And Tears Of 'Harlem Renaissance': In Richmond, The Wrenching Ambivalence Of Black Art In America. The Washington Post (1974-Current File)
- Johnson, K. (2008, Sep 12). Black In America, Painted Euphoric and Heroic: Art Review. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- Aaron Douglas Collection, 1921-1973, Fisk University
- Aaron Douglas Papers, 1924-1939, Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library.
- Check out the Harlem Renaissance Collaborative App that includes work of Aaron Douglas.
- Aaron Douglas - NARA, by Betsy Graves Reyneau, Wikimedia Commons
- Special News Slide, Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries
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