Fallen Through The Cracks – A Look at History’s Underrated Black Art Pioneers

Fallen Through The Cracks – Ruth Gilliam Waddy

May 18th – FallenThroughTheCracksRuth Gilliam Waddy was born Willanna Ruth Gilliam on January 7, 1909, in Lincoln, Nebraska, and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was an American artist, printmaker, activist, and editor who was known for her practice of linocut printmaking and was in her fifties when she turned to art as a career. Her highly contracted prints featured stories about African-American visibility. 

She attended the University of Minnesota with hopes of teaching but had to leave school to help support her family during the Great Depression. She moved with her young daughter to Los Angeles to find work as a riveter at Douglas Aircraft Corporation. After the war, she worked at a county hospital, where one of her co-workers was artist Noah Purifoy. In 1966, her work was part of “The Negro in American Art,” a traveling exhibition funded by the California Arts Commission and took on a cross-country bus trip to collect artworks for Prints by American Negro Artists (1967). With artist Samella Lewis, she edited Black Artists on Art (1969 and 1971). Waddy and Lewis are considered to be two of the “founding mothers” of the Black Arts Movement in California. She founded an organization of artists called Art West Associated which extended the groundbreaking work of co-op galleries and helped promote the work of Black artists in the 60s and 70s in Los Angeles. She was one of twelve African-American artists honored by the Los Angeles Bicentennial in 1981, received an honorary doctorate from Otis Art Institute in 1987, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Women’s Caucus for Art in 2001. Her papers are at the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University. Ruth G. Waddy died on May 24, 2003, at age 94, in San Francisco, California. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – William Henry Johnson

May 16th – FallenThroughTheCracks – William Henry Johnson was born on March 18, 1901, in Florence, South Carolina. He was a painter who worked with a variety of media, often just using the materials that were available on hand to create his work. His works emphasized vivid and vibrant colors alongside simplistic figures. His depictions of African American culture were pulled from his upbringing in the rural South. He immersed himself in African-American culture and traditions, from realism to expressionism to constructing images that were represented by their folk art plainness.

He moved to New York City at the age of 17 saving enough money to pay for classes at the National Academy of Design. In the fall of 1927, he moved to Paris, where he learned modernism, and had his first solo exhibition at the Students and Artists Club. He moved back to the U.S. in 1929 and fellow artists encouraged him to enter his work at the Harmon Foundation, and as a result, Johnson received the Harmon gold medal in fine arts. Johnson ultimately found work as a teacher at the Harlem Community Art Center where he and other teachers instructed about 600 students per week meeting important Harlem artists such as Gwendolyn Knight. William Henry Johnson no longer painted after 1955 and died on April 13, 1970, in Central Islip, NY. The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts was established in 2001 in honor of his 100th birthday and has awarded the William H. Johnson Prize annually to an early career African American artist. In 2012, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in Johnson’s honor, recognizing him as one of the nation’s foremost African-American artists and a major figure in 20th-century American art. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Nancy Elizabeth Prophet

May 15th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Nancy Elizabeth Prophet was born on March 19, 1890, in Warwick, Rhode Island. She was an artist of African-American and Native-American ancestry, known specifically for her sculpture. In 1914, at the age of 24, Prophet enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. She was the only African American student and graduate amongst a predominantly white female school population. After graduation, She attempted to find work as a portrait painter full-time but was unsuccessful.

She painted portraits of local residents to earn money to travel to France and in 1922, Prophet moved to Paris to study sculpture at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts. She left the school because she believed she could teach herself faster than working under a mentor. One of her most prominent works, Negro Head, is a larger-than-life-size wooden sculpture. W.E.B. DuBois and Countee Cullen helped Prophet submit her work to exhibitions in the United States while she lived overseas and she won the Harmon Prize for Best Sculpture in 1929. In 1934, Prophet began teaching students at both #SpelmanCollege and #AtlantaUniversity, expanding the curriculum to include modeling and the history of art and architecture. She had hopes of encouraging the creative minds of youth, the encouragement she was not presented with during her early years as she often welcomed students to her own home. In 1935 and 1937, she participated in the #WhitneyMuseum Sculpture Biennials, and the Sculpture International exhibition at the #PhiladelphiaMuseumofArt in 1940. Her sculpture, #Congolaise, became one of the first works by an African American acquired by the Whitney Museum. Nancy Elizabeth Prophet died on December 13, 1960, in Providence, Rhode Island at the age of 70. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Merton Simpson

May 11th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Merton Simpson was born on September 20, 1928, in Charleston, South Carolina. He was an abstract expressionist painter and African and tribal art collector and dealer. Growing up in a segregated South, Simpson was not allowed to take art classes at the city-run Gibbes Gallery where his mentor artist William Melton Halsey worked. In 1949, his wife Corrie, and former director of the Charleston Museum, Laura Bragg, sponsored his first solo art show. They held two separate receptions; “one for whites and one for whites who didn’t mind coming to a reception with blacks.”

Simpson was the first African American to receive a prestigious five-year fellowship from the Charleston Scientific and Cultural Education fund and left South Carolina for New York City after finishing high school. He took classes at New York University (NYU) during the day and at Cooper Union at night also working at a framing shop where well-known artists would frequent. He credited the frame shop for giving him his “real education”. In 1951 his work appeared in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and in 1954 his work was displayed in the Younger American Painters exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. The Harlem Riot of 1964 which Simpson witnessed firsthand, had a particular impact on his painting. The artist responded by creating the so-called “Confrontation” series of painting series that featured schematized black and white faces inter-meshed in an intense encounter. The Merton D. Simpson Gallery of Modern and Tribal Arts is famous for its exceptional collection of Tribal arts and for artworks by his contemporaries. As his knowledge and experience in the field grew he eventually became known as one of the most prominent dealers of traditional African art in the world and the international art world at large. Merton Simpson died on March 9, 2013, in New York City. He was 84 years old. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Valerie Jean Maynard

May 10th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Valerie Jean Maynard was born on August 22, 1937, in New York City, NY. She was a sculptor, teacher, printmaker, and designer who addressed themes of social inequality and the civil rights movement.

She studied painting and drawing at the Museum of Modern Art, printmaking at the New School for Social Research, and received a master’s degree in Art and Sculpture in 1977 at Vermont’s Goddard College. Maynard taught at the Studio Museum in Harlem, at Howard University, the University of the Virgin Islands, and the Baltimore School for the Arts. She specialized in the preservation and restoration of traditional art by people of color. She re-contextualized motifs from the Middle Passage and the Civil Rights Movement into her work, offering commentary on the struggle of those in the African diaspora to achieve and maintain equal rights. In January 1977, Maynard was part of a contingent of hundreds of African-American artists who represented the North American Zone, exhibiting in FESTAC 77, the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in Lagos, Nigeria. In 2003, Maynard was commissioned to create a series of glass mosaic murals entitled Polyrhythmics of Consciousness and Light which is permanently installed in the subway station on 125th Street in New York City. In 2021, she received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Valerie Maynard died on September 19, 2022, in Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 85. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Geoffrey Holder

May 8th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Geoffrey Lamont Holder was born on August 1, 1930, in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He was an actor, dancer, musician, and artist. He was educated at Tranquility School and Queen’s Royal College in Port of Spain but made his performance debut at seven years old in his brother Boscoe Holder’s dance company.

Seeing him perform in The Virgin Islands, choreographer Agnes de Mille invited Holder to work with her in New York where he joined Katherine Dunham’s dance school and taught folkloric forms. From 1955 to 1956, he performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet as a principal dancer but left the ballet to make his Broadway debut in the musical House of Flowers. In 1973, he played a henchman in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die and also contributed to the film’s choreography. In 1975, Holder won two Tony Awards for direction and costume design of The Wiz, the all-black musical version of The Wizard of Oz. He was the first black man to be nominated in either category. He also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design. Holder was a prolific painter, ardent art collector, author, and music composer. As a painter, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship in fine arts in 1956. In popular culture, Holder is known for portraying Nelson in the 1992 film Boomerang with Eddie Murphy. Geoffrey Holder died in New York City on October 5, 2014, at the age of 84. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Tina Allen

May 5th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Tina Allen was born Tina Powell on December 9, 1949m in Hempstead, New York. She was a sculptor known for her monuments to prominent African Americans. Her sculpture focused on writing black history in bronze and emphasizing the contributions and aspirations of the #AfricanDiaspora. She was 13 years old when she began sculpting. Instead of following the assignment to make an ashtray, she made a bust of Aristotle instead.

Allen graduated from the University of South Alabama with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1978. She also studied art at the New York School of Visual Arts, the Pratt Institute, and the University of Venice in Italy. Allen often focused on the #HarlemRenaissance. She studied historical figures and dreamed of portraying them through sculpture. Her first major work was a nine-foot bronze statue of A. Philip Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was commissioned in 1986. Over the next two decades, Allen continued creating realistic sculptures of black activists for display in public spaces. One of her best-known works is a 13-foot bronze likeness of #AlexHaley, which was installed in the Haley Heritage Square Park in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1998. Her statue of #GeorgeWashingtonCarver is the focal point of the George Washington Carver Garden at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. Her 12-foot bronze monument to #SojournerTruth is displayed in Memorial Park Battle Creek, Michigan and the bust of #FrederickDouglass is on display at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; it was featured in a scene in the movie Akeelah and the Bee. Allen also crafted a bronze medallion for the Women of Essence awards, which annually honor Black women of outstanding accomplishment and achievement. Tina Allen passed away on September 9, 2008, in Los Angeles, CA. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Extended Research).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Don Hogan Charles

May 4th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Don Hogan Charles was born “Daniel James Charles” on September 9, 1938, in New York City. He studied engineering at City College of New York before dropping out to pursue photography. He was the first African-American staff photographer hired by The New York Times. He remained on staff for 43 years until his retirement in 2007.

Charles started as a freelance photographer and appeared in major international publications with commercial clients including Oscar de la Renta, and Pan American World Airways. During his tenure at the New York Times, he photographed notable subjects including Coretta Scott King, John Lennon, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali. His work focused on local hangouts and everyday people but he is most known for his extensive coverage of figures of the civil rights era. One of his most iconic photos is the photo of Malcolm X holding an M1 carbine while peeking out a window. The photo was commissioned by Ebony Magazine and became a symbol of the lengths the civil rights leader would go to, to protect his family. “By Any Means Necessary”. In 1967, Charles captured a photo of a young boy with his hands up walking in front of soldiers during the Newark riots, one of more than 150 racial riots in the country that summer. Charles’ work is in the collections of the Museum Of Modern Art and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Don Hogan Charles passed away on December 15, 2017, in Harlem, NY. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Varnette Patricia Honeywood

May 3rd – FallenThroughTheCracks – Varnette Patricia Honeywood was born on December 27, 1950, in Los Angeles, CA. She was a painter, writer, and businesswoman who created paintings and collages depicting African-American life. She is highly regarded for her use of color and light, patterns, and textures. Creating positive visual images for Black children became one of her major goals. She focused on the history of African Americans, their sufferings and triumphs, and celebrates the strength and leadership of Black women. She often described her work as “figurative abstraction.”

She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Spelman in 1972, her Master of Science in Education, and her teaching credentials from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1974. She also earned an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Spelman College in 2005. Honeywood used her educational training to teach multicultural arts and crafts programs to minority children in public schools and as a graduate student, she taught art at the Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall. Camille Cosby discovered Honeywood’s work on note cards and she and her husband Bill Cosby started collecting her works. This led to the inclusion of Honeywood’s artwork, including her 1974 painting “Birthday”, on the walls of the Huxtable living room on the set of The Cosby Show. She had been asked to create a painting to be included in the show’s pilot and different examples of her paintings were cycled through during the show’s run. Honeywood’s artwork can still be seen on various television shows, movies, and book covers. She is recognized by contemporary artists today for her significant contribution, helping to envision and shape Black visual culture. Varnette Honeywood died at age 59 on September 12, 2010, in Los Angeles after fighting cancer. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Artist Website).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Frederick James Brown

May 2nd – FallenThroughTheCracks – Frederick James Brown was born on February 6, 1945, in Greensboro, Georgia. His family moved to Chicago and he was near the steel mills on Chicago’s Southside. There, he was exposed to the blues by musicians in the neighborhood such as #MuddyWaters and #HowlinWolf. Brown attended Chicago Vocational High School and then attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale, graduating in 1968 with a degree in Art.

In 1970, Brown moved from Chicago to New York City’s SoHo neighborhood which at the time was home to a variety of creatives. He collaborated with musicians, painters, and videographers and contributed to performing arts productions. The 2002 documentary film 120 Wooster Street depicts Frederick Brown’s loft studio, which grew to be a central gathering place for artists, musicians, writers, and dancers. Brown taught art at the Central College of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1985 and 1987. In 1988, he had the first solo exhibition by a Western artist at the Museum of the Chinese Revolution (now the National Museum of China) in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China exhibiting 100 pieces of artwork. His style ranges from abstract expressionism to figurative as his artwork was influenced by historical, religious, narrative, and urban themes. In September 2008 Brown organized a symposium of artists, musicians, dancers, and poets at Cornell University on the Creative Movement of the 1970s. His work is part of the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, as well as the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Mo. Frederick J. Brown, died on May 5th, 2012 in Scottsdale, AZ. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Clementine Hunter

May 1st – FallenThroughTheCracks – Clementine Hunter was born in late December 1886 or early January 1887, at Hidden Hill Plantation, near Cloutierville in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. She was a self-taught folk artist from the Cane River region of Louisiana, who lived and worked on Melrose Plantation. She started working as a farm laborer when young, and never learned to read or write but began to sell her paintings depicting Black Southern life in her fifties which gained local and national attention.

Her work illustrates brightly colored portrayals of funerals, baptisms, and weddings and scenes of plantation labor varying in subject and style, including many abstract paintings and still-life works. Initially, she sold her first paintings for as little as 25 cents and has become one of the most well-known self-taught artists being exhibited in museums and sold by dealers for thousands of dollars. She is the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at the present-day New Orleans Museum of Art. Hunter’s largest work is a series of murals in the African House at Melrose Plantation. She used paint left by visiting artists at Melrose Plantation, therefore she was working with other artists’ palettes. Hunter would frequently thin out her supply of paint with turpentine, creating more of a watercolor effect, which caused many Hunter scholars to believe she had a watercolor experimental phase. In February 1985, the museum hosted A New Orleans Salute to Clementine Hunter’s Centennial, an exhibit in honor of her one-hundredth birthday. She achieved significant recognition during her lifetime, including an invitation to the White House from U.S. President Jimmy Carter and letters from President Ronald Reagan and U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. Clementine Hunter died on January 1, 1988, at the age of 101, in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – John Woodrow Wilson

Apr 28th – FallenThroughTheCracks – John Woodrow Wilson in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1922. He was a lithographer, sculptor, painter, muralist, and art teacher whose art was prompted by the social and political climate of his era. His work portrays themes of social justice and equality. Wilson was endorsed for his capability to unite his artistic creativity with his passion for politics and social justice.

One of Wilson’s most overtly politically charged works, a lithograph called “Deliver Us From Evil,” was created while he was a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1943. In 1947, Wilson graduated from #TuftsUniversity while teaching at the Boris Mirski School of Modern Art. He won the James William Paige Traveling Fellowship and soon moved to Paris and studied with the modern artist #FernandLéger. In 1950, he won a John Hay Whitney fellowship and lived in Mexico for five years. Wilson was inspired by Mexican painter #JoséClementeOrozco, whose work focused primarily on political murals. When Wilson returned to the United States in 1956, he made artwork for labor unions in Chicago and taught for a bit in New York City before returning to Massachusetts in 1964 to teach at Boston University. Wilson’s most famous and viewed work is the bronze bust of #MartinLutherKingJr. that stands three feet tall in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. He won the sculptural commission in 1985 as part of a national competition to create a memorial statue of the civil rights leader. Wilson’s method for creating profound art can be seen in the sketches he made in preparation for the bust of King. John Woodrow Wilson died on January 22, 2015, at his home in Brookline, MA. He was 92 years old. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Dr. Samella Lewis

Apr 27th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Dr. Samella Lewis was born ​​Samella Sanders Lewis on February 27, 1923, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was a visual artist and art historian who worked primarily as a printmaker and painter. She has been referred to as the “Godmother of African American Art”.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts. degree at Hampton University and then completed her master’s and doctorate in art history and cultural anthropology at the Ohio State University in 1951 becoming the first female African American to earn a doctorate in fine art and art history. She became the first Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Florida A&M University in 1953 and also became the first African American to convene the National Conference of African American Artists. She was quoted as saying, “Art is not a luxury as many people think – it is a necessity. It documents history – it helps educate people and stores knowledge for generations to come.” – Dr. Samella Lewis Lewis’s work, which includes lithographs, linocuts, and serigraphs, reflected humanity and freedom. Lewis completed four degrees, five films, seven books, and a substantial body of artworks that have received critical respect. Lewis was an avid collector of art as a working artist with her collection beginning in 1942 and focused on artists who made work from WPA and the Harlem Renaissance. In 1984, she produced a monograph on artist Elizabeth Catlett, who had been one of Lewis’s mentors. She received the Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement from the College Art Association (CAA) in 2021. Dr Samella Lewis died on May 27, 2022, in Torrance, California, at the age of 99. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Herbert Gentry

Apr 26th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Herbert Alexander Gentry was born on July 17, 1919, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His family moved to New York City and Gentry grew up in the city with The Harlem Renaissance as the backdrop. He pursued drawing in school and took art classes at the Harlem YMCA and later studied art as part of the Federal Art Project of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) at Roosevelt High School.

Gentry served in the U.S. Army (1942–45), serving in the 90th Coast Guard Artillery / Anti-Aircraft Regiment and working in Special Services. He was an African-American Expressionist painter whose paintings juxtapose faces and masks, shifting orientations of figures and heads—human and animal. These faces evoke subtle expressions and moods as Gentry releases his experiences upon the canvas. Romare Bearden once wrote that Gentry’s “method is conceptual rather than realistic.” Between 1975 and 1995, Gentry’s creative production was fueled by mobility. He was in continuous movement, traveling several times a year. He lived and worked in Paris, Copenhagen, and Stockholm among other European cities, and was a permanent resident of the Hotel Chelsea while in New York City. During this period he showed in Europe as an American artist, while in the United States, he was exhibited as an African-American artist. Gentry’s work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York); the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Hirshhorn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands), and the National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi, India). Herbert Gentry died on September 8, 2003, in Stockholm, Sweden. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Gwendolyn Knight

Apr 25th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Gwendolyn Clarine Knight was born on May 26, 1913, in Bridgetown, Barbados, in the West Indies.

Her work concentrated on narrative paintings illustrating the life, culture, and history of African Americans, through still life, portraits, and urban scenes. From 1931 to 1933 she attended Howard University and because of financial hardship from The Great Depression, she had to drop out before receiving her degree. In 1934 she joined a Works Progress Administration (WPA) mural project, where she met her future husband and fellow painter, #JacobLawrence. The couple were married in 1941. She was employed by the Works Progress Administration as an assistant to muralist Charles Alston and also studied at the Harlem Community Art Center, where she was mentored by Augusta Savage. Through Savage, she was exposed to the work of great artists, writers, and poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Knight painted throughout her life but did not start seriously displaying her work until the 1970s with her first retrospective at nearly 90 years old. During her career, she received many awards, including the National Honor Award, and two honorary doctorate degrees, from the University of Minnesota and Seattle University. In 1993, Knight received the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award. She was honored with the Caucus Centennial Medallion, from the Black Caucus. Gwendolyn Knight passed away in Seattle, Washington on February 18, 2005, at the age of 91. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Arthur P. Bedou

Apr 24th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Arthur Paul Bedou was born on July 6, 1882, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was a photographer who documented the life of black residents in New Orleans and was a personal photographer of Booker T. Washington who photographed the last decade of his life.

In 1903 Bedou documented a conference at the Tuskegee Institute with the hope of attaining visibility for his photos. Washington saw some of his photography and offered Bedou to accompany him and produce images of events. Many of the photos taken are between 1908 and 1915, the year Washington passed away. This relationship brought him further commissions, photographing noteworthy individuals like Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington Carver and also documenting campus life at the Xavier University of Louisiana and the Tuskegee Institute from about 1917 to the late 1950s. Through his connection to Washington, Bedou eventually became the official photographer of the Tuskegee Institute. He opened his own studio in the 1920s and photographed everything from families and their children to the Corpus Christi Church, Jazz Bands, and celebrity speakers. He photographed numerous events, activities, and portraits that often appeared in the Louisiana Weekly (a newspaper with a primarily black circulation) and in the Louisiana Times-Picayune. His pictures won several awards including the gold medal at the 1907 Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition. He left much of his fortune to educational institutions, and his wife, Lillia Bedou, founded the Arthur and Lillia Bedou Scholarship at the Xavier University of Louisiana. Xavier University Archives & Special Collections also holds an extensive collection of his photographs. Arthur Paul Bedou died on June 2, 1966, at the age of 83. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).

Fallen Through The Cracks – Camille Billops

Apr 20th – FallenThroughTheCracks – Camille Josephine Billops was born on August 12, 1933, in Los Angeles, CA. She was a sculptor, filmmaker, archivist, printmaker, and educator whose primary visual art medium was sculpture. She later experimented with photography, printmaking, and painting.

She obtained her B.A. degree from California State University and her M.F.A. degree from City College of New York. Billops is best known as a filmmaker of the black diaspora. Billops’s film projects have been collaborations with, and stories about, members of her family. Suzanne, Suzanne studies the relationship between Billop’s sister Billie and Billie’s daughter Suzanne. Finding Christa deals with Billops’s daughter, whom she gave up for adoption. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival. They were co-produced with her husband James Hatch. Responding to the lack of publications on African American art and culture, Billops and Hatch began collecting thousands of books and other printed materials, more than 1,200 interviews, and scripts of nearly 1,000 plays. Once housed in a 120-foot-long loft in Lower Manhattan, the Collection is now largely located at the Camille Billops and James V. Hatch archives at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library at Emory University. In 1981, Billops and Hatch began publishing Artist and Influence: The Journal of Black American Cultural History, an annual journal featuring interviews with noted American “marginalized artists” across a wide range of genres. To date, more than 400 interviews have been recorded. Camille Billops died on June 1, 2019 at the age of 85 in New York, NY. (Text paraphrased from Wikipedia and Smithsonian).