Last week, we lost one of North America's most estimable, if underrecognized creators—artist and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett. Catlett was alive for nearly all of the 20th century, witnessing America progress (and regress), her art reflecting history, legacy, and reality of her world, guided by principals of social justice and accessibility.
The Harlem Renaissance was a major cultural movement in the 20th century by black artists from the Harlem neighborhood in New York. Although the precise dates of the Renaissance are vague, the artwork remains strong and powerful to this day. Here are some of the women artists of the era.
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, Toni Morrison is one of the most iconic literary figures of the twentieth century. She was born in Ohio, to which her parents, Ramah Willis Wofford and George Wofford, moved in order to escape the racist climate of the US South. I’ll be referring to her by the name by which she is known professionally, Toni Morrison, throughout this piece, but I want to point out that Toni is the nickname, and Chloe Wofford preferred. She writes a lot about being denied one’s true self, and, as naming is a powerful determinant here, I don’t care to be one to let this writer’s true self go unacknowledged. Morrison, then, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993–the eighth woman to be awarded this honour–and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. Morrison’s services to literature have not just been through her own fiction, however; she’s edited writers such as Angela Davis, promoting black literature every which way she can.
I first saw a selection of the Gee's Bend quilts at The Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco.
I'd never had anything against quilts before that, they just never
struck me all that much. I couldn't deny that socially, they can bring
women and family together in making and sharing them, but the generally
rigid/symmetrical patterns, and often pastel colors and mixed floral
prints, didn't grab me. But when I laid eyes on a Gee's Bend
quilt for the first time, I was truly moved by not just the story
behind it, but moved on a gutteral level by the beauty of the object