Born into Slavery, Joshua Johnson Became the First Black Professional Artist in the United States

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2020-07-17 21:06Z by Steven

Born into Slavery, Joshua Johnson Became the First Black Professional Artist in the United States


Jaelynn Walls, Curator and Writer
Houston, Texas

Joshua Johnson
Family Group, ca. 1800
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Historians know woefully little about Joshua Johnson, the first professional African American artist to work in the United States. An active painter in Maryland and Virginia from roughly the 1790s to 1825, Johnson was all but forgotten until the middle of the 20th century. In 1939, Baltimore genealogist and art historian J. Hall Pleasants attributed 13 paintings to Johnson and began the long journey of reconstructing his career through scraps of often contradictory information. Even the artist’s last name is uncertain, and many art historians are still debating whether it was spelled “Johnson” or “Johnston.”

Johnson was born into slavery in mid-18th-century Maryland to a white man and a Black slave woman owned by William Wheeler Sr. Chattel records note his race as mulatto, though Maryland had no legal definition for what constituted “Black” versus “mixed race” at the time. Pleasants located documents variously describing Johnson as a slave, a slave trained as a blacksmith, a Black servant afflicted with consumption, and an immigrant from the West Indies.

While much of Johnson’s history remains mysterious, his special place in art history is assured. The next renowned African American artists to emerge in the United States, Robert S. Duncanson and Henry Ossawa Tanner, followed Johnson by decades…

Read the entire article here.

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The Stuart Hall Project (Washington premiere)

Posted in Anthropology, Media Archive, Philosophy, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2014-01-11 22:14Z by Steven

The Stuart Hall Project (Washington premiere)

The National Gallery of Art
East Building Auditorium
Between 3rd and 9th Streets, N.W. along Constitution Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C.
2014-01-19, 16:30 EST (Local Time)

The celebrated Jamaican-born sociologist and theorist Stuart Hall (b. 1932) is the founding father of cultural studies — the popular interdisciplinary field that has reworked the way in which cultural patterns are studied within societies. Combining archival imagery, home movies, and found footage with new material and a uniquely crafted Miles Davis soundtrack, “John Akomfrah’s filmmaking approach matches Hall’s intellect, its intimate play with memory, identity, and scholarly impulse traversing the changing historical landscape of the second half of the twentieth century” — British Film Institute. (John Akomfrah, 2013, DCP, 95 minutes)

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