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Five African-American Artists

Updated on April 17, 2020

Although this article only highlights five african-american artists, there are many, many more. During the time that I was earning an art certificate from Penn Foster, I decided to do some independent studying of African American artists. Since I'm reading about them anyway, why not share them with Hub Pages, right? I got this information from a wonderful book entitled St. James Guide to Black Artists. The book is a great read, it lists hundreds of black artist, not just African American, but Cuban, Jamaican, African, Sudanese, and so many more. I have provided only brief outlines from five of the artists from the book.

Alex Haley Memorial Statue
Alex Haley Memorial Statue

Tina Allen

African American Sculptor and Painter

Tina Allen was born in 1955. Her artistic focus is to destroy negative stereotypes of African Americans. Allen is famous for her larger-than-life renderings of famous African American historical figures, such as the twelve-foot tall statue of author Alex Haley, shown to the right. Other historical subjects of her works include Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, and Nelson Mandela. Allen also stresses over details in her works, such as hair, lips, and noses to demonstrate pride in the physical beauty of African ancestry.

Allen attended The School of Visual Arts in NY, the University of Southern Alabama, Pratt Institute, and the University of Venice, Italy. She is a commissioned sculptor and a member of the board of directors for the International Center for African American National Congress. Some of her awards include:

  • The Fannie Lou Hamer Award
  • The Urban League Award
  • The Genesis-Spirit Award

Tina Allen
Tina Allen

Quote from Tina Allen

"I look forward to the day when beauty is like a fragrance--you sense it, you don't see it, but you're positive it's there.  We need to see with our souls; from that crow's nest, we have a clearer vision.  Art should address this longing from within and create Rosetta Stones of a sort to unlock the meaning of true beauty that nurtures and heals."

Painter Ernie Barnes
Painter Ernie Barnes

Ernie Barnes

African American Painter

Ernest Eugene Barnes, Jr. was born in Durham, North Carolina in 1938. He attended North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) in Durham where he played football and majored in art. He played pro-football, first for the San Diego Chargers from 1960-1963, and then for the Denver Broncos from 1964-1965. He became the official artist of the American Football League in 1966.

Barnes received several awards throughout his career as an artist, with a couple of them listed here:

  • Sports Artist of the Year, United States Sports Academy, 1985
  • Treasure of Los Angeles Award, 1996

The Dunk! by Ernie Barnes
The Dunk! by Ernie Barnes

Barnes was very successful at combining football with art, often depicting athletics and scenes from daily life in his works. He also had many portrayals of African American themes, some of them portraying the importance of learning, and some portraying the beauty of the ghetto. His sports-related renderings were often conspicuously multiracial, reinforcing his message of tolerance and community solidarity.

Barnes also produced paintings for the television series Good Times, and was the official artist for the 1984 Olympic Games.

Paul T. Goodnight
Paul T. Goodnight

Paul T. Goodnight

African American Painter

Paul Goodnight was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 31, 1946. He attended Vesper College in Boston, Roxbury Community College in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts College of Art. Goodnight served in the US Army from 1967-1969. Goodnight has had many highly visible commissions, such as a mural that he completed in the Ruggles Station of Boston's transit system, and works for contemporary television programs such as The Cosby Show and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air . Goodnight operates his own publishing business, and prints of his work are widely available. Goodnight expresses a unified vision of black people as a global population with shared manners and behaviors, while at the same time offering his viewers wit and universal humanism.

Painting by Paul Goodnight
Painting by Paul Goodnight

Quote from Paul T. Goodnight

"Art creates an avenue for me, an avenue I would like to travel.  I want to play a part in helping build the road, but in reality, it's helping to build me.  I'm starting to believe in things that I've always heard about but never paid any attention to.  Things like God; 'being human' as opposed to the human being; prejudice, paranoia, and abstinence."

Unison, a mural by Ademola Olugebefola
Unison, a mural by Ademola Olugebefola

Ademola Olugebefola

African American Painter and Printmaker

Ademola Olugebefola (aka Bedwick Lyola Thomas) was born in the US Virgin Islands on October 2, 1941. He attended The Fashion Institute of Technology in NY, the African Theological Archministry in NY, Weusi Academy of Arts and Studies in NY, and the Printmaking Workshop in NY. Olugebefola's work can be characterized as a portal for his understanding of the spiritual and metaphysical worlds and the higher forces in the universe, with a powerful themes from ancient Egyptian and African cultures. His work is an ongoing exploration and celebration of creativity, beauty, and the power of unity. He is one of the founding members of Weusi, an important Harlem-based visual arts academy. The name Weusi means "black" or "blackness" in Swahili. The academy was founded in 1965. Olugebefola has designed many covers and illustrations for prominent book publishers and authors.

Ademola Olugebefola
Ademola Olugebefola

Awards that Ademola Olugebefola have received include:

  • Fredrick Douglas Award, 1965
  • Lois Noel Award, 1974

Helen Evans Ramsaran
Helen Evans Ramsaran

Helen Evans Ramsaran

African American Sculptor

Helen Evans Ramsaran was born in Bryan, Texas on May 11, 1943. She attended Ohio State University, New School for Social Research in NY, and the Art Students League of NY. Ramsaran's work often used heavy metals associated with male artists, however, they still contained a quiet and delicate strength. A trip to Africa in 1981 changed her work significantly. She began to embody her own "afrocentricity" and visually expressed this in her works of art.

Legacy From Olduvai by Helen Evans Ramsaran
Legacy From Olduvai by Helen Evans Ramsaran

Quote by Helen Evans Ramsaran

"In my research I have discovered the unique architecture of the Batammaliba people who reside in northern Ghana, Togo, and Benin.  What captured my imagination about this marvelous architecture was the symbolism in the forms, both exterior and interior, which is the cohesive force in the lives of the residents, the community, and the entire village.  I also learned of the overwhelming importance of the "path" in the life and culture of the Batammaliba people.  In fact, one cannot fully comprehend the symbolic aspects of the architecture without recognizing the important role that "paths" play in organizing basic architectural features, i.e., the orientation of the doorway, the placement of the house shrine, and the placement of facade ornamentation.  Thus paths may be definite or simply implied......"

Secluded in the Grove by Helen E. Ramsaran
Secluded in the Grove by Helen E. Ramsaran
A Ceremony in Silence by Helen E. Ramsaran
A Ceremony in Silence by Helen E. Ramsaran
The Bench by Ernie Barnes
The Bench by Ernie Barnes
Energizing Spirit by Ademola Olugebefola
Energizing Spirit by Ademola Olugebefola

The majority of the information that I have provided was researched in a book titled "St. James Guide to Black Artists". The book contains information on hundreds of Black artist with a lot more details that I have provided. I have also used photos from various sites listed below:

God's Precious Loans by Tina Allen
God's Precious Loans by Tina Allen

"This work is about the gift from God of treasured relationships to support and love us.  Special people, on loan to us, come into our lives and we walk together for a time.  There is no guarantee it will last forever so our time together must be respected.  The spiritual connection between the two is strong.  They look up to God, the source, with their minds.  Here I hope to show sculpture with a vertical link to God, as opposed to a horizontal link to man."
- Tina Allen

Out of these five artists, whose work do you like best?

See results


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    • madscientist12 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dani Alicia 

      7 years ago from Florence, SC

      @prospectboy thank you for your comment. If you're interested in more, the book I mentioned earlier in the article has many, many more artists that you can read up on

    • prospectboy profile image

      Bradrick H. 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Well written and researched article. I personally don't hear much about African-American artists being mentioned, so it was nice to read up on about the few you highlighted in this hub. Really enjoyed reading this. Voted up, rated, useful, and awesome.


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