February is National Black Women in the Arts Month! Celebrate by learning about a few artists that left their mark on history. 

September 22, 1891 – February 24, 1978

Alma Thomas lived most of her life in Washington, D.C. as an artist and educator. She created mosaics like abstract paintings that were bright and full of color.

The Eclipse, 1970 White Roses Sing and Sing, 1976      

February 29, 1892 – March 26, 1962

Augusta Savage was a teacher and artist during the Harlem renaissance. She created a show-stopping piece for the New York’s World Fair of 1939 titled “The Harp.” In 1943, she became a member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, making her its first African American member.

Gamin, 1929

May 16, 1887 – February 3, 1948

Laura Wheeler Waring was both an educator and artist during the Harlem Renaissance. She was one of the most well-known female artists of her time, creating portraits of prominent African Americans.  

Marian Anderson, 1944 W.E.B Du Bois, 1945

November 3, 1905 – June 9, 1998

Lois Mailou Jones was both an artist and an educator. She created art that highlighted the influence of traditional African art in America.

Les Fétiches, 1938 Two African Hairstyles, 1982

April 25,1917 – June 15, 1996

Ella Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer during the Harlem Renaissance. She was known as “the first lady of song.” She won many awards during her lifetime, including a Grammy.

January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960

Zora Neale Hurston had many talents, she was an author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. Her most popular book titled “Their Eyes Were Watching God” was published in 1937. Her books highlighted the racial struggles of the early 1900s.

Books for Further Learning

Ablaze with Color : A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey

Tells the story of painter and teacher Alma Thomas, discussing her childhood, teaching career and activism.

Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the board book adaptation of the author’s Little leaders: bold women in Black history.

We Are Artists: Women Who Wade Their Mark on the World by Kari Herbert

Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the board book adaptation of the author’s Little leaders: bold women in Black history.

Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring by Nancy Churnin

Growing up in the late 19th century, Laura Wheeler Waring didn’t see any artists like her. She didn’t see any paintings of people who looked like her. So when she was offered a commission to paint portraits of accomplished African Americans. Writers, singers, political activists, and thinkers all posed for her. Now her portraits hang in Washington, D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery, where children of all races can admire the beautiful shades of brown she captured.

Brave, Black, First : 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World by Cheryl Willis Hudson

An illustrated biographical compilation of over fifty African American women from the 1700s through to the present day.

In Her Hands : The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage by Alan Schroeder 

A biography of African American sculptor Augusta Savage, who overcame many obstacles as a young woman to become a premier female sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance. Includes an afterword about Savage’s adult life and works, plus.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls : 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic by Lilly Workneh 

Acknowledges, applauds, and amplifies the incredible stories of 100 inspiring Black women and girls from the past and present.

Faith Ringgold : Narrating the World in Pattern and Color by Sharna Jackson 

Presents an illustrated look at the life of American painter, writer, mixed media sculptor, and performance artist, Faith Ringgold.

Wake Up Our Souls : A Celebration of Black American Artists by Tonya Bolden

Presents a history of African American visual arts and artists from the days of slavery to the present.

Women Artists A to Z by Melanie LaBarge

An empowering alphabet book celebrates famous and less-represented women artists in a variety of genres who have transformed the art world, from Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Xenobia Bail.

Talking with Tebe: Clementine Hunter, Memory Artist by Mary E. Lyons

Details the genius of Tebe Hunter, a plantation worker who became the first self-taught African-American woman artist to receive national media attention by portraying the rich community life shared by southern laborers.

Discovering African American Art for Children by James Haywood Rolling, Jr.

Discovering African American Art for Children introduces children to twelve important works of art. The Come Look with Me series of interactive art books from Lickle Publishing offers both children and adults a whole new way of encountering works of art, one which engages the imagination as much as the eye. Well suited for both individual and classroom use, Discovering African American Art for Children pairs great works of art with thought-provoking questions.

Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead

Clementine Hunter’s paintings went from hanging on her clothesline to hanging in museums, yet because of the color of her skin, a friend had to sneak her in when the gallery was closed.

Discovering Women artists for Children by Jennifer Tarr Coyne

Introduces twelve women artists, including Faith Ringgold, Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, and Grandma Moses, each with a short biography, a full-page color plate, a description of the image, and a set of discussion questions.

Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford 

Rhyming text celebrates the Harlem neighborhood that successful African Americans first called home during the 1920s. Includes brief biographies of jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis; artists Aaron Douglas and Faith Ringgold; entertainers Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers; writer Zora Neale Hurston; civil rights leader W. E. B. DuBois; and lawyer Thurgood Marshall.