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Forgotten Female Figures: Annie Turnbo Malone

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Annie Turnbo Malone revolutionized and innovated haircare for multiple generations. Malone was the tenth of eleven children born to former slaves Robert and Isabella Turnbo in Metropolis, Illinois. She lost her parents at a young age, forcing her to move to Peoria when her older sister Ada Moody. She was fascinated with hair and chemistry as a young girl. She attended public school for a time before illness forced her to drop out.

Malone turned to her love of hair as a hairstyling apprentice under her sister. Her time as a hairdresser was fruitful as she developed and created a shampoo and scalp treatment for Black women. After finding success in Illinois, she uprooted her business and moved to St. Louis for even more success. At the same time, the 1904 World’s Fair was taking place, pushing her to craft an innovative nationwide campaign through demonstrations, press conferences, and newspaper advertisements. In addition to these marketing campaigns, she hired and trained local sales agents to push her products, including fellow beauty innovator Madam C.J. Walker.

The success of her haircare products led to Malone founding the haircare and beauty school Poro College. By this time, she had expanded her products to include cold cream, lipstick, and face powders. Malone built the complex not only for business operations but as a community complex for the Black population, housing facilities like business offices, dormitory, gymnasium, and chapel. The structure took up an entire block. By the 1920s, the business continued thriving, educating over 75,000 students and employing 175 workers. This immense success pushed her to become one of the wealthiest Black women in the U.S.

Her success led to Malone using her money for philanthropic efforts. She spent much of her fortune helping primary, secondary, and post-secondary educational programs, the YMCA, and multiple black orphanages across the U.S. She even served as president of the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home for three decades.

In her later years, Malone and the Poro Company experienced difficult times following a bitter divorce from her second husband, multiple lawsuits, and the Great Depression. She ended up moving her operations to Chicago. Her business continued to thrive even as her fortunes declined. By the 1950s, there were multiple Pro colleges in over 30 cities. The haircare innovator passed away on March 10, 1957, following a stroke.

Annie Turnbo Malone used haircare as the foundation for entrepreneurship and philanthropy. She lent her talent and business knowledge to help spawn multiple female entrepreneurs, including Walker. Unfortunately, her contributions as a haircare entrepreneur and philanthropist were overshadowed by some of her star pupils. While history may have undermined her, I want to say, “We all appreciate the sacrifices and innovations you made to make Black excellence possible, Mrs. Malone.”

Chicago, in my opinion, is the capital of Negro America. The people here are accomplishing things. The atmosphere is one of commercial striving, endeavor and promise.

Annie Turnbo Malone

Forgotten Female Figures: Ruth Temple

Public health advocate Dr. Ruth Temple helped to bring healthcare to the public. Temple was the second eldest of six children born to a Baptist preacher father and a homemaker in Mississippi. Her parents instilled a love for education and humanism at an early age. At age 10, things turned upside down when her father suddenly died. Following his death, the family moved to Los Angeles, where her mother studied nursing. At age 13, she tended to her older brother after a gunpowder explosion, sparking her interest in medicine.

Her family helped to found the first Black Seventh-Day Adventist church in the West. One of the founders, Theodore Troy, heard of her medical aspirations and invited her to speak at the political organization Los Angeles Forum. Her speech captured the organization’s attention, which led to the members bestowing her with a five-year scholarship to Loma Linda University. She became the first Black female graduate of the prestigious medical school. The practicing physician went on to intern at the Los Angeles City Health Department, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. Working in the LA area (especially in Southeast LA) led to her taking a keen interest in public health after a traumatic experience with an infant.

Temple created the first health clinic to provide underserved southeast Los Angelenos. She and her husband, Otis Banks, converted their home into the Temple Health Institute. At the same time, she implemented the Health Study Club program to educate adults and children on health and health-related issues. After a few years, the LA Health Department awarded her a scholarship to Yale University School, where she received her master’s degree in public health. After completing her degree, she became the first female health officer as the Director of Special Health Services.

Her time at the agency was fruitful as Temple spearheaded LA’s Community Health Week, where good health initiatives were at the forefront. She began teaching at the White Memorial Hospital for several years. After being with the LA Health Department for two decades, she retired from the agency in 1962. The beloved practitioner was appointed the director of the Health Education Department for the Pacific Union, becoming the first Black person and woman to do so.

In her later years, Temple continued working in public health as she continued her efforts with Community Health Week. In 1983, Los Angeles renamed the East Los Angeles Health Center to the Dr. Ruth Temple Health Center to honor her impact on medical and public health services. She passed away at age 91 in 1984.

Dr. Ruth Temple made public health service her mission. Fortunately, her mission has continued as most areas – from rural towns to big cities – have health clinics that cater to the underserved. Her model is still used to this day. Her contributions as a public health advocate and leader changed the look and approach of healthcare. So, I say, “Dr. Temple, thank you for making sure everyone had proper healthcare.”

…at that time I thought that women were nurses. I didn’t know they were doctors. When I learned that women were doctors, I said `Ah, that’s what I want to be’.

Ruth Temple

Forgotten Female Figures: Althea Gibson

Grand Slam tennis champ Althea Gibson changed how the world viewed Black players in the predominately white sport. Gibson was born in South Carolina to sharecroppers before the family moved to Harlem, New York. At an early age, she demonstrated athletic prowess, playing basketball and paddle tennis. Her talent in paddle tennis led her to win her first title at age 12. Her junior career led to her winning multiple titles, including the American Tennis Association New York State Championship. She won ATA national girls’ division championship in 1944 and 1945.

Gibson’s success in the division caught the eye of Dr. Walter Johnson, a tennis enthusiast who mentored her as a young adult. His guidance helped her become part of the United States Tennis Association (USTA). After joining the organization, she became the first Black woman to play in the Nationa Indoor Championships. After attending high school in North Carolina, she enrolled at Florida A&M University. In 1950, she became the first black player to compete in the U.S. Open. However, the tennis prodigy scored her first international title, the Caribbean Championship in Jamaica. She went on to win 16 international tournaments in Europe and Asia.

As her amateur career continued, Gibson became the first Black person to win the French Open. She won numerous singles and doubles tournaments before becoming the first Black person to win Wimbledon in 1957. After receiving the renowned championship, the tennis ace became only the second athlete (after Jesse Owens) to a ticker tape parade. In the same year, she won several singles and doubles championships before becoming the first Black player to compete in and win the Wightman Cup. Her success led to her being crowned Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958 (the first Black woman to do so) and becoming the first Black woman to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated and Time magazines. Despite being the top-ranked tennis player, the tennis star retired at age 31 from her amateur career.

Gibson turned professional but found the professional touring circuit quite limiting with little reward. At the height of her tennis career, the tennis icon worked as a physical education teacher at Lincoln University in Missouri. Her post-retirement career featured a brief stint in the entertainment industry as a singer and musician. Eventually, she pursued a professional golf career, becoming the first Black woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. Just like her tennis heyday, she broke course records during her golf career. She continued playing until 1978 when she retired with little financial gain.

In her later years, Gibson participated in several media appearances. She penned two memoirs while teaching and mentoring young tennis players through multiple clinics and youth tennis programs. The retired player continued blazing trails as she became the first female athletic commissioner in the U.S. She tried returning to tennis and golf in the 1980s but faced hurdles with both attempts. Gibson dabbled in politics by joining the New Jersey Department of Recreation and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. After facing health battles in the 1980s and 1990s, the tennis icon passed away on September 28, 2003, following complications from a heart attack.

During and after her lifetime, Althea Gibson left an impact on sports. She used her careers in tennis and golf as a form of activism as she sought to break color barriers. She paved the way for many Black tennis players to receive the recognition and financial gains they deserve. Her contributions as an elite athlete may not have not the appreciation they deserve in her lifetime. So, I say, “Ms. Gibson, we appreciate all you had to go through to make Black and brown folks the face of tennis.”

In the field of sports you are more or less accepted for what you do rather than what you are.

Althea Gibson

Game Changers

Angie Thomas

Novelist Angie Thomas used her words to set the young adult world on fire. Thomas was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Growing up in a violent area, her mother fostered Thomas’ passion for reading and writing by taking her to the local library. Writing allowed her to pursue her musical dreams as a teen rapper. Eventually, she set aside her music aspirations to pursue writing, majoring in Creative Writing at Belhaven University.

Her college studies led her to create her first book, The Hate U Give after a professor championed her to translate her upbringing into words. Her experiences, the Black Lives Matter movement, and her love for Hip Hop informed her work from then on. Her manuscript won her the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant. The Hate U Give was a New York Times best-seller and adapted into a modest box-office hit with Thomas as a producer.

Thomas has since released two more New York Times best-sellers, On the Come Up and Concrete Rose, in 2019 and 2021. The former was adapted for the screen as a feature-length film directed by Sanaa Lathan. She most recently participated in the YA anthology Blackout, along with other writers Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon.

Her upcoming novel, Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Mainfestor Prophecy, will debut on bookshelves and online on April 4, 2023.

Angie Thomas used her experiences as a voice for those without one. She proved Black writers could use their voices to address topical subjects without compromising their principles and morals. Despite all her success on multiple fronts, Thomas shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Novelist Angie Thomas

Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.

Angie Thomas

Tope Folarin

Writer and educator Tope Folarin used his experience as a first-generation American to shed light on serious topics. Folarin is the eldest of four siblings raised in Utah and Texas. His parents instilled a love for their native country in their children, sparking his fascination for culture and words. This love translated to him attending and graduating from Morehouse College.

His academic pursuits led to Folarin furthering his studies at Harvard University. He went further as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, where he obtained his M.Sc. in African Studies and M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy. His work soon found him writing several short stories while opening pieces for notable publications like The Atlantic. His writings led him to win the Caine Prize as the first non-native African writer to do so.

Folarin expanded his work into publishing with his semi-autobiographical novel A Particular Kind of Black Man. His debut novel won him the Whiting Award for Fiction. His writings also garnered him a fellowship through the National Endowment for the Arts.

In addition to his writing career, Folarin has used his voice in the educational space for over a decade. He currently serves as executive director of the Institute for Policy Studies and Georgetown University’s Lannan Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing.

Tope Folarin channeled his thoughts and words to reflect the differences within the U.S. His work championed Black writers to allow their voices to tackle serious subjects in a quest for change. Folarin is trying to change the world with every word.

Art became for me the pathway to, I think, achieving a kind of wholeness… And that was the beginning of my journey, I think, to becoming a more coherent individual human being.

Tope Folarin

Get to Know These Black Creatives

Patrick Alston

Abstract painter Patrick Alston

Abstract painter Patrick Alston is taking painterly abstraction to a new level. Alston was born and raised in New York. As a young artist, he had an affinity for gesture painting, materials, and psychology. He found inspiration in abstract and experimental artists like Raymond Saunders, Cy Twombly, Mark Bradford, and Basquiat.

His love for attraction led to him attending Wabash College in Indiana, where he majored in art and psychology. His studies and post-grad work focused on socio-politics, identity, language, and the psychology of color. After graduating from college, he began showcasing his painterly abstractions in various solo and group exhibitions across the globe, including the U.S. and the U.K. In 2021, he secured his first art residency through Gallery 1957 in Accra, Ghana.

Alston currently splits his time between New York and Connecticut, where he has a dedicated studio.

Amy Sherald

Portraitist Amy Sherald

Portrait painter Amy Sherald is bringing a fresh take on portraiture. Sherald was born and raised in Georgia to an upper-middle-class family. She had an affinity for art at a young age, drawing and doodling on her classwork. She found inspiration after seeing the work of Bo Bartlett on a school field trip. Despite her artistic interest, her parents discouraged her interest, leading her to enroll at Clark-Atlanta University as a pre-med. She eventually switched to painting after taking a class taught by renowned artist-historian Dr. Arturo Lindsay.

Following graduation, Sherald apprenticed for Lindsay, helping him organize and install exhibitions in Central and South America, China, and Norway. She eventually pursued her MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Soon, she put her art career on hold to take care of her ailing family. She returned to the art world with her first solo show in 2011. Her work eventually caught the eye of others, leading to some firsts. The portrait artist became the first woman to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and the first Black woman commissioned to create a presidential portrait with her painting of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Sherald currently works in Maryland, where she has a dedicated studio. She currently participates in solo and group exhibitions while accepting commissions.

Brit Bennett

Novelist Brit Bennett

Freelance writer and novelist Britt Bennett gives a view into African-American life through a female lens. Bennett was born and raised in California in a predominately female household with her mother and sisters. Those relationships inspired her to write as she began crafting her first novel in high school. Her passion for writing led her to major in English at Stanford University.

Bennett decided to pursue her MFA at the University of Michigan before attending Oxford University. She first caught national for her essay “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People.” The writer eventually authored more notable works like “Addy Walker, An American Girl” and “Ta-Neishi Coates and a Generation Waking Up.” She soon ventured into publishing with her debut novel, The Mothers, in 2016 before releasing her follow-up, The Vanishing Half, in 2020. Both books became New York Times best sellers and were optioned for upcoming live-action productions.

Bennett was named to Time magazine’s Time100 Next. She recently published her first children’s book Meet Claudie: An American Girl.

Sophia Yeshi

Illustrator and graphic designer Sophia Yeshi

Illustrator and graphic designer Sophia Yeshi uses her work to highlight Black women and the LGBTQ+ community. Yeshi grew up in Baltimore as the daughter of a Pakistani father and a Black mother. Her affinity for graphic design began at age 12 when she scored a free trial of Photoshop. She took graphic design courses in high school before studying the discipline at the University of Baltimore.

After graduating, Yeshi interned for a few local firms before she started freelancing for companies like Converse and LinkTree. Soon, her work caught the attention of Refinrey29, which commissioned her to do some design work for the website. After that, the multifaceted artist created designs and campaigns for brands and publications like Instagram, Rock the Vote, The New York Times, Dwell Magazine, Comcast, Google, and UPS. She gained enough traction to secure a creative residency with Adobe and a teaching partnership with Skillshare.

Along with creating designs for multiple companies and brands, Yeshi also runs a blog highlighting other designers.

Tre Seals

Graphic and type designer Tre Seals

Type designer Tre Seals uses his work to elevate and amplify social causes. Seals grew up in Washington. D.C., where he lived on a farm. His fascination with drawing and writing began at age four when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His love for letters became a legit creative business in the 5th and 6th grades. He designed his first font as a high school senior, which led to him majoring in graphic design at Stevenson University.

Seals spent his early post-grad career working for several design firms. Those experiences led him to want to diversify the design industry. He launched his company before founding his font foundry, Vocal Type, in 2016. His diverse fonts caught the world’s attention in 2020 when his font Martin became associated with Black Lives Matter murals after the killing of George Floyd. This attention eventually led to the type designer creating fonts for filmmaker Spike Lee and the Amazon Labor movement.

Seals currently works in Maryland, the home base of his studio and foundry. He recently published his first book, Dream in Color, while working on other non-type design projects.

Forgotten Black Figures: Joshua Johnson

Portrait artist Joshua Johnson was an important first in the art world. Johnson was reportedly born in Baltimore, Maryland or the French West Indies, to a white father and an enslaved Black mother around 1763. He obtained freedom in 1782 after his biological father acknowledged Johnson as his son. Being declared a free man meant working as a blacksmith’s apprentice.

Following his apprenticeship, Johnson began teaching himself to paint. Multiple records have him registered as a limner and portrait painter between 1796 and 1824. His whereabouts remain scratchy as he reportedly moved around the Baltimore area several times. It was believed he supplemented his income by painting furniture for affluent Baltimoreans. Despite being a Black painter, his subjects were upper-class white citizens. His work became so popular that he painted the area’s most notable families. He advertised his services in the local Baltimore newspaper Intelligencer. Johnson gained credit for doing 13 paintings during his most active period.

Despite his humble beginnings, Johnson’s painting career was fruitful as land records showed he was a property owner in Montgomery, Frederick, and Anne Arundel counties in Maryland around or after 1824. He was reportedly married twice – once to a woman named Sarah, who bore him two sons and a daughter. He later remarried another woman named Clara.

As records from the period are hard to come by, Johnson’s latter years are a mystery. He reportedly passed away in 1826.

Joshua Johnson displayed his talents at a time when most Black people barely had any freedom. This self-taught genius set a precedent for many Black painters and visual artists who continue to follow in his footsteps to this day. Due to a lack of records, many of his contributions to the art world were uncredited until historians started researching his work. However, now is the time to recognize Mr. Johnson for letting the world know that Black artists could leave an indelible mark.

18th century painter Joshua Johnson

Inspirational Black Artists, You Need to Know

Jacob Lawrence

Painter Jacob Lawrence

Multi-discipline artist Jacob Lawrence used his brush to bring African-American life into the art world. Lawrence was the eldest of three children moving around until they settled in Harlem. He found an affection for art by participating in art workshops run by renowned painter Charles Alston. At age 16, he dropped out of high school to support his family by working at a laundromat and a printing plant.

Lawrence kept pursuing art by studying at Harlem Community Art Center and the American Artists School while working at the Works Progress Administration. Following a military stint, he crafted some of his best-known works, including The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture and Harlem. His most famous panel series, The Migration of the Negro, made him the first Black artist represented by a New York gallery. While working as an artist, he taught at several colleges and universities across the U.S.

In his later years, Lawrence continued exhibiting his work at notable museums while delving into other art mediums. He started the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation with his wife Gwendolyn Knight, allowing young artists to create and study American art. The painter passed away on June 9, 2000, after a battle with lung cancer.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Abstract artist Jean-Michel Baquiat

Abstract painter Jean-Michel Basquiat put every avenue of African-American life with a unique style. Basquiat was born and raised in New York with a Haitian father, a Puerto Rican mother, and two younger sisters. He got his love for art from his mother, who encouraged him to draw. That affinity only grew after ending up in the hospital at age seven, reading the medical book Gray’s Anatomy. He attended the City-as-School, where he began doing graffiti under the moniker SAMO.

Basquiat left home in 1978 with a passion for the art world. He tried different artistic endeavors before landing his first public art show in Times Square. His work appeared in several exhibitions before landing patronage from Annia Nosei. He continued exhibiting his work across Europe and the U.S., at one period being one of the highest-paid artists. This period spawned notable works like Untitled (Skull) and Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta.

In his final years, Basquait continued exhibiting his work around the world. At the same time, he developed a heroin addiction, which led to his eventual death at age 27 on August 12, 1988.

Bisa Butler

Textile artist Bisa Butler

Fiber artist/quilter Bisa Butler used her fine art skills to redefine quilting. Bulter was born and raised by her educator parents in New Jersey as the youngest of four siblings. She first knew she had a talent for art after winning an art contest at age four. Her affinity for art led her to pursue her BFA at Howard University, majoring in painting.

However, it wasn’t until she pursued her MA at Montclair State University that Butler finally turned her focus toward fabric art. She began exhibiting her work across the U.S. in the 2000s. At the same time, she was teaching art classes in New Jersey high schools for over a decade. By the 2010s, she began exhibiting her quilt work in various countries, including Art Basel in Switzerland.

Butler continues to craft her fabric art for various exhibitions and other outlets like publishing and filmmaking. Her work is currently available in permanent collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Gordon Parks

Photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks

Photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks captured African American life through his lens. As the youngest of 15 children, Parks was born into a working-class family in Kansas. After his mother passed, He moved to Minnesota, where he went through multiple careers.

Parks’ love affair with the camera didn’t happen until age 28 after seeing images of migrant workers in a magazine. The self-taught photographer began taking photos, which led to positions with the Farmer Security Administration and Office of War Information. After working for the U.S. government, he began working for Vogue and Ebony before becoming Life magazine’s first Black photographer. During this time, he published several books and notable photo essays, including “Harlem Gang Leader.” He eventually expanded into other mediums like film and music composition, leading to classics like The Learning Tree and Shaft.

In his later years, Parks continued his photography and film work while venturing into writing and painting. He continued working until his death on March 7, 2006.

Faith Ringgold

Mixed media and textiles artist Faith Ringgold

Mulitfacted artist and quilter Fait Ringgold used her art to tell powerful narratives. Ringgold was born to creative parents in Harlem as the youngest of three children. Her love for visual art came from her mother to cope with her chronic asthma. She decided to pursue art education at City College, where she obtained her B.S. and M.A.

Ringgold started her career as a painter. Works such as The American People Series saw her travel to Europe and the U.S. before scoring her first solo exhibitions in New York. Eventually, she extended her artistic endeavors into performance art and sculpture, culminating in pieces such as The Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro. She ventured into her beloved quilt art until the 1980s with notable works like Echoes of Harlem and Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?

Ringgold has kept her artistic endeavors going by venturing into children’s literature. She spent over a decade teaching at the University of California until her retirement in 2002. The artist continues to work on new pieces with permanent collections at multiple museums.

Forgotten Black Figures: Anna Russell Jones

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

Inspirational Black Designers, You Need to Know

E. Simms Campbell

Commercial artist and cartoonist E. Simms Campbell

Illustrator and commercial artist E. Simms Campbell was a trailblazer in the print world at a time where Black voices weren’t prominent. Campbell was born in Missouri to educator parents but moved to Chicago as a kid following his father’s death. Working for his high school newspaper fostered his love for illustration and cartooning. He attended the University of Chicago before transferring to the Chicago Art Institute.

Following his college years, Campbell’s caricatures caught the eye of Triad Studios, where he worked for two years. Soon, his work made waves after moving to New York, where he contributed illustrations to Life and Judge magazines. This buzz led to him working for national mainstream publications, including Cosmopolitan, Ebony, The New Yorker, Redbook, Playboy, and a twenty-year tenure with Esquire. He created the magazine’s iconic mascot Esky. His hard work paid off as he became the first Black cartoonist to have a syndicated comic strip with Cuties in over 145 newspapers.

In his later years, Campbell continued to work in illustration and design following his exit from Esquire. The illustrator passed away on January 27, 1971, from a brief illness related to cancer.

Thomas Miller

Graphic designer and visual artist Thomas Miller

Visual and commercial artist Thomas Miller was influential in the commercial design world. Miller was born and raised in Virginia to working-class parents. His love for art started at a young age after becoming fascinated with Leonardo da Vinci. After graduating high school, he attended and graduated from Virginia State University before joining the military in World War II.

Miller didn’t start doing art professionally until he returned from the war and enrolled in Chicago’s Ray Vogue School of the Arts. After graduating, he faced an uphill battle in finding employment before landing a position at the prominent firm Gerstel/Loeff. However, it was his 35-year tenure at the renowned graphics studio Morton Goldsholl Associates. He was instrumental in several major advertising campaigns like the 7-Up and Motorola rebranding. Outside his commercial work, he built a career as an independent artist through private commissions and gallery showcases.

After retiring from Morton Goldsholl, Miller created the Founders Mosaics for the DuSable Museum of African American History in 1995. In his later years, he kept commissioned independent artwork for other entities and displayed his work in galleries. The artist passed away on July 19, 2012, from natural causes.

Georg Olden

TV graphic and motion designer Georg Olden

Graphic and commercial designer Georg Olden was influential in commercial and motion design. Olden grew up the youngest of three children moving from Alabama to Virginia to Washington, D.C. after his father left for his civil rights work. He began drawing in high school before attending and dropping out of Virginia State University.

Olden’s graphic design began after enlisting in the military and joining the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). His time in the military was fruitful as VP of CBS Television Lawrence W. Lowman was his colonel and recruited him to be a graphic designer. From 1945 to 1960, he served as director of graphic design, where he and his team created countless network and show ids for classics like Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy, and Lassie. During this time, he became the first Black person to design a U.S. stamp, celebrating 100 years of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963.

After leaving CBS, Olden worked for notable advertising agencies BBDO and McCann Erickson. The designer passed away on February 25, 1975, after being killed by his live-in girlfriend.

Gail Anderson

Writer and graphic designer Gail Anderson

Graphic designer and educator Gail Anderson helped to make type a force in design. Anderson is a first-generation Jamiacan-Ameircan born and raised in New York. She became fascinated with designing after crafting faux fan magazines for the Jackson 5 and the Partridge Family. Her love for design led her to attend and graduate from the School of Visual Arts.

Anderson started her design career by working at Vintage Books and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. After working for both organizations, she spent fifteen years at Rolling Stone, going from assistant to senior art director. The graphic designer crafted multiple covers and editorial stories featuring celebrities like Gillan Anderson and Alicia Keys. After her Rolling Stone tenure, she worked for the advertising agency SpotCo from 2002 to 2010. During this time, she designed a U.S. stamp celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. She extended her design skills to multiple Broadway and off-Broadway productions.

Anderson has continued to work in commercial design through her agency Anderson Newton Design with Joe Newton. She continues to teach future designers as a professor at her alma mater.

Archie Boston Jr.

Graphic artist Archie Boston Jr.

Graphic artist and educator Archie Boston Jr. shaped the look of American advertising and commercial design for decades. Boston is one of five children born to a truck driver and caregiver in Florida. His high school art teacher encouraged him to enter a local art exhibition. Another source of inspiration came from his older brother Bradford, who was a designer as well. He followed his older brother to the California Institute of Arts, where he majored in graphic design.

Following his time at CalArts, Boston worked at Hixson and Jorgensen Advertising and Botsford Ketchum before forming Boston & Boston with his older brother. The design duo crafted notable campaigns for Beckman Instruments, Chiat/Day Advertising, and Concord Electronics. Eventually, the agency dissolved as he worked for Botsford Ketchum for eight years and started Archie Boston Graphic Design. During this period, he became the first Black president of the Art Director Club of Los Angeles.

At the same time, Boston was a faculty member at California State University, Long Beach, from 1977 to 2009. Since retirement, he delved into documentary filmmaking with the release of 20 Outstanding Los Angeles Designers and Black Pioneers of the Sunshine City.

Forgotten Black Figures: Dwayne McDuffie

Comics and television writer Dwayne McDuffie changed the comic book world by making it more diverse. McDuffie grew up as the eldest of two sons in a middle-class Black family in Detroit, Michigan. He demonstrated a love for science fiction and comics at an early age. His talent was noticed early on as his parents worked extra shifts to cover his tuition for the private school Roeper School, where he cultivated his artistic talents. He studied at the University of Michigan as a teen.

McDuffie’s love for writing and science saw him return to U of M, where he double majored in English and Physics. Another passion of his – filmmaking – led him to New York, where he attended the Tisch School of the Arts for a brief time. After securing a less-than-desired job in NYC, McDuffie landed a position at Marvel Comics as a special comics editor in 1987. While at Marvel, he spearheaded the first superhero trading cards and the limited series Damage Control.

A few years later, McDuffie became a freelancer, working for various companies like DC and Archie Comics. His knack for storytelling and quest for diversity led him to co-found the multimedia outlet Milestone Media along with Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle. He served as editor-in-chief and co-creator of several multicultural characters, including the beloved Static. The success of Milestone opened the writer up to television and film work after Static became the first Black superhero to lead an animated series. His work on the show earned him a Humanitas Prize for the episode “Jimmy.” His work led to writing and producing several animated shows, including the Ben 10 franchise and What’s New, Scooby-Doo?

In his later years, McDuffie returned to the comics world, writing for titles like Justice League of America and Fantastic Four. He released his comic series, Milestone Forever, in 2010. The publisher passed away on February 21, 2011, following complications from emergency heart surgery.

During and after his lifetime, Dwayne McDuffie left the comic book world more diverse than when he came into it. His quest for a multicultural industry spawned a revolution that still reverberates today with the increase in BIPOC writers and characters across multiple universes. His contributions as a writer and creator across different mediums may not get the attention they deserve. So, I say, “Mr. McDuffie, thank you for all you did to create a space for Black and brown voices.”

Milestone Media founder Dwayne McDuffie

You don’t feel as real if you don’t see yourself reflected in the media […] There’s something very powerful about seeing yourself represented.

Dwayne McDuffie
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