Aaron Douglas was an African-American artist who became a significant part of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s. His work included illustrations and paintings depicting the racism and segregation suffered in the US.
In 1922, he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and worked as an instructor at Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri before his talent came to the attention of important people in Harlem, New York. Two years after gaining his fine arts degree, he left his teaching job for New York at the behest of Charles S. Johnson, the first Black president of Fisk University.
He went onto become one of the most influential artists of the era and returned to teaching in 1944, when founded the Art Department at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He taught visual art there until his retirement in 1966.
Recommended reading and viewing
- Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist
- Aaron Douglas: Art, Race, and the Harlem Renaissance
- Black in America, Painted Euphoric and Heroic [requires a NYT login]
- Aaron Douglas: Life as a Renaissance Artist by Sandy Joseph
- Aaron Douglas: Major artist of the Harlem Renaissance
- David Driskell Discusses Major Aaron Douglas Painting Acquired by The Met
Below is a video about one of Aaron Douglas’s most beautiful pieces, “Aspiration”.