Black History: Painters & Artists

Black History: Painters & Artists

Heart and Soul

African American artist Ashley Bryan was born in 1923 and grew up in the Bronx in New York City. When he was a little boy his parents noticed right away that he loved to draw and paint and make things. They did everything they could to make sure he had art supplies to use to create things. After he graduated from high school he wanted to go to college and study art. This would have been in the time right before World War II, well before the Civil Rights Movement. Ashley interviewed for a spot at an art institute. He says in his autobiography Ashley Bryan Words to My Life’s Song,”

The interviewer stated that mine was the best portfolio that he had seen. However, he also informed me that it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a colored person.

In his book, Ashley explains how he listened to good advice from his parents. They told him to not let anyone or anything ever stop him from doing what he loves. Ashley persevered. He attended the Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering and Columbia University. He studied art in France and Germany too.

Ashley has taught art, written and illustrated books and created countless beautiful things that you can see in this book like stained glass windows, paintings, sculptures, puppets and more. There is one picture in this book that shows Ashley at home in a room full of his creations. It’s like looking at an I Spy picture of wonderful things. I would love to wonder through his studio, pull up a stool and begin creating something. When you read this book written in his own words, you’ll realize that if you did walk into his studio, that is exactly what he would want you to do!

Listed below are books, websites & databases that will help you learn more about African American Art and African American artists.

Websites, Activities, Printables:

Biography in Context is a database you can use in any IndyPL Library Branch or at home. Biography in Context will show you biographies, magazines, videos and more about African American Artists.​


Use your indyPL Library Card to check out books at any of our locations, or check out e-books and e-audiobooks from home right to your device. Click on a book jacket below to request a book or download it. Need help? Call or ask a Library staff member at any of our locations, text a librarian at 317 333-6877, or leave a comment.

A Splash of Red the Life and Art of Horace PippinEtched in ClayGordon ParksRadiant ChildIt Jes Happened When Bill Traylor Started to DrawArt from the Heart Folk Artist Clementine HunterDraw What You SeeDrawing in the Sand a Story of African American ArtFaith RinggoldGoing Back Home an Artist Returns to the SouthRomare BeardenSewing Stories Harriet Powers Journey from Slave to ArtistWake Up Our Souls a Collection of African American ArtistsWords with Wings a Collection of African American Poetry and ArtJerry PinkneyCome Look with Me the Story of African American Art for ChildrenStarting Home the Story of Horace Pippin, PainterStitching Stars the Story Quilts of Harriet PowersStory Painter the Life of Jacob LawrenceDave the PotterHenry Ossawa Tanner

To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black history makers, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.

WeNeedDiverseBooks LogoTo get young people engaged, one of the things they need is to see themselves in books. It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books, because that encourages us to read in a different way and encourages us to write more.” ~ Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott Founder of the African American Read-in #weneeddiversebooks

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