Visual artist Anna Russell Jones set the tone with her versatile arts background. Russell Jones was the youngest of three children in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after her father’s passing. Her family fostered her love for art at an early age. It led her to attend and graduate from William Penn High School for Girls.

Russell Jones’s passion for art led to her becoming the first Black woman to receive a four-year scholarship to attend the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, known today as Moore College of Art & Design. She majored in textile design, becoming the first Bakc graduate of the college. After graduation, the visual artist worked for the James G. Speck Design Studio from 1924 to 1928. Later, she opened up a design studio, where she took orders across the U.S. and Canada.

During World War II, Russell Jones enrolled in and was accepted into the United States Army, becoming the first Philadephia-based Black woman to join the Armed Forces. Her visual arts pedigree came into play as she designed graphics and other designs for military publications. Following her military service, the designer returned to her alma mater for graduate studies before studying medical illustration at Howard University. She worked as an LPN before switching to civil services as a graphic artist and illustrator.

In his later years, Russell Jones continued accepting freelance work from various clients and projects. The designer passed away on April 3, 1995.

Anna Russell Jones forged paths in multiple fields without realizing she was doing so. Her pursuit of the arts still reverberates today with more BIPOC designers and visual artists who continue making strides. Her contributions as a designer across different fields may go unsung. Here’s to Mrs. Russell Jones for making inroads at a time when racism and sexism were more pronounced than they are now.

Textile and graphic designer Anna Russell Jones

I must’ve been good in art… I remember[if] I always had a pencil in my hand I would draw.

Anna Russell Jones