A Black Power in Print Annotated Bibliography

In his “Proposal to Eradicate Institutional Racism at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,” Dana Chandler writes, “One of the black museum’s greatest contributions will be an accurate, up-to-date compilation of existing material on black artists and their works, as well as some really sound critical evaluation of the aesthetic conditions and directions in black art.”

He goes on to list the following five books, which form the beginning of this bibliography.

  • Lewis, Samella S., and Ruth G. Waddy. Black Artists on Art. Los Angeles: Contemporary Crafts, 1969.
  • Dover, Cedric. American Negro Art. Greenwich: New York Graphic Society, 1960.
  • Images of Dignity: The Drawings of Charles White. Foreword by Harry Belafonte. Introduction by James Porter. Commentary by Benjamin Horowitz. Los Angeles: W. Ritchie Press, 1967.
  • Locke, Alain. The Negro in Art: A Pictorial Record of the Negro Artist and of the Negro Theme in Art. Washington, DC: Associates in Negro Folk Education, 1940; also New York: Hacker Art Books, 1940.
  • Porter, James A. Modern Negro Art. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1943.

The list of additional reading materials below is an addendum to Chandler’s own list from 1970. It is drawn from the suggestions of those who contributed to this project and is by no means comprehensive. Some annotations come from publishers and book reviews. Like Chandler’s original list, this bibliography focuses on survey texts and exhibition catalogues. It will grow as new scholarship is published—scholarship that has in part been precipitated by Chandler’s work and that of other activist artists like him.

Links are provided for texts available to reserve online through the Boston Public Library. Any Massachusetts resident can apply for a BPL card; everyone else can find copies of the books below at their nearest library using WorldCat, or, in most cases, at their local bookseller.

Looking for additional reading resources? Check out “Black Americans in the Visual Arts: A Survey of Bibliographic Materials and Research Resources,” a bibliography compiled by scholar and curator Lowery Stokes Sims in 1973 for Artforum and recently republished on the magazine’s website. And find more information on Dana Chandler on the artist’s website.

  • Atkinson, J. Edward. Black Dimensions in Contemporary American Art. New York: Plume, 1971.
    Presents for the first time the important creations of America’s most celebrated Black artists.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Bearden, Romare, and Harry Henderson. A History of African-American Artists: From 1792 to the Present. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993.
    A landmark work studying African American artists from the late 18th century to the present, written by the great American artist Romare Bearden with journalist Harry Henderson, who completed the work after Bearden’s death in 1988.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Bearden, Romare, and Ernest Crichlow. Fifteen Under Forty: Paintings by Young New York State Black Artists. New York: New York State Department of Education, Division of the Humanities and the Arts, 1970.
    A catalogue that accompanied the exhibition of the same name.
  • Beardsley, John, William Arnett, Paul Arnett, and Jane Livingston. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend. Introduction by Alvia Wardlaw. Foreword by Peter Marzio. Atlanta: Twinwood Books in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2002.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Bowling, Frank, and Kellie Jones. Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction 1964–1980. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 2006.
    A catalogue for the 2006 Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition featuring work by 15 American Black artists who pursued vibrantly modernist alternatives to the figuration of the contemporaneous Black Arts Movement. Artists included Frank Bowling, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Ed Clark, Melvin Edwards, Sam Gilliam, and Daniel LaRue Johnson.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Campt, Tina M. A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2021.
    An examination of Black contemporary artists who are shifting the very nature of our interactions with the visual through their creation and curation of a distinctively Black gaze.
  • Choi, Connie H., Thelma Golden, and Kelli Jones. Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 2019.
    The catalogue for a major traveling exhibition comprising more than one hundred works by nearly 80 artists from the 1920s to the present. The exhibition has traveled across the US to venues as diverse as the Museum of the African diaspora in San Francisco and the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Collins, Lisa Gail. The Art of History: African American Women Artists Engage the Past. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002.
    Places the artwork of African American women into context within African American history.
  • Cooks, Bridget R. Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.
    In 1927, the Art Institute of Chicago presented the first major museum exhibition of art by African Americans. Designed to demonstrate the artists’ abilities and promote racial equality, the exhibition also revealed the art world’s anxieties about the participation of African Americans in the exclusive venue of art museums―places where Blacks had historically been barred from visiting, let alone exhibiting. By further examining the unequal and often contested relationship between African American artists, curators, and visitors, Cooks provides insight into the complex role of art museums and their accountability to the cultures they represent.
  • Crawford, Romi, Rebecca Zorach, and Abdul Alkalimat. The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2017.
    The first in-depth, illustrated history of a lost Chicago monument, a revolutionary mural created by 14 members of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) on the South Side of Chicago in 1967.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Doty, Robert M. Contemporary Black Artists in America. New York: Whitney Museum of Art, 1971.
    From the New York Times on April 6, 1971: “Fifteen black artists out of a schedule 75 have withdrawn from the Whitney Museum exhibition, ‘Contemporary Black Artists in America,’ opening today. Their action is in sympathy with a boycott called by the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, a group of black artists that initiated the show nearly two years ago. At a press conference called by the Coalition at the Studio Museum in Harlem yesterday, a number of black art specialists from across the country Issued a supporting statement. It demanded, among other things, that ‘black art experts and consultants and‐or institutions must be involved in the preparation and presentation of all art activities presented by white institutions and involving the black artist and the black community.’
    Place a hold online through the Boston Public Library
  • Drew, Kimberly and Jenna Wortham. Black Futures. New York: One World, 2020.
    A collection of work—images, photos, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and more—to tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Driskell, David, David Levering Lewis, Deborah Willis, and Mary Schmidt Campbell. Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America. New York: The Studio Museum in Harlem, 1987.
    In the 1920s, Harlem was the capital of Black America and home to an epochal African American cultural flowering called the Harlem Renaissance. This book presents the work of the most important visual artists of the day, including Meta Warrick Fuller, Aaron Douglas, and Palmer Hayden.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • English, Darby. Among Others: Blackness at MoMA. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019.
    This expansive collection of essays on nearly two hundred works in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art is the first substantial exploration of MoMA’s uneven historical relationship with Black artists, Black audiences, and the broader subject of racial Blackness.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • English, Darby. How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010.
    Work by Black artists today is almost uniformly understood in terms of its “Blackness,” with audiences often expecting or requiring it to “represent” the race. In How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness, Darby English shows how severely such expectations limit the scope of our knowledge about this work, and how different it looks when approached on its own terms.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Enwezor, Okwui. Contemporary African Art since 1980. New York: Damiani, 2009.
    Explores the work of contemporary African artists from diverse situations, locations, and generations who work either in or outside Africa, but whose practices engage and occupy the social and cultural complexities of the continent over the past 30 years.
  • Enwezor, Okuwi, Naomi Beckwith, Massimiliano Gioni, Glenn Ligon, and Mark Nash. Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America (from Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter). New York: Phaidon Press, 2020.
    The accompanying catalogue for an intergenerational exhibition bringing together 37 artists working in a variety of mediums. The artists and their work address the concept of mourning, commemoration, and loss as a direct response to the national emergency of racist violence experienced by Black communities across America.
  • Enwezor, Okuwi, Olu Oguibe, Octavio Zaya, and Clare Bell. In/sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1996.
    A truly pioneering book bringing together work by 30 African photographers who challenge longstanding Western misconceptions about Africa.
  • Everett, Gwen. African American Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2003.
    An accessible, reader-friendly introduction to 20th-century African American art, illustrated with works from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and published to accompany a touring exhibition.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Farrington, Lisa E. Creating Their Own Image: The History of African American Women Artists. London: Oxford University Press, 2005.
    A comprehensive look at the contributions of African American women artists from the time of slavery up until the new millennium.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Gaither, Edmund B. Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston. Boston: MFA Publications, 1970.
    This exhibition catalogue accompanied the 70-person exhibition that included more than 150 works of art.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
    Read Gaither’s introduction to the catalogue
  • The Getty Research Institute’s African American Art History Initiative.
    A transformational research initiative focusing on the postwar art and cultural legacy of artists of African American and African diasporic heritage. The Getty Research Institute’s objective is to augment efforts already underway to document the historical impact, contemporary import, and cultural legacy of works by African American artists, and to enhance the visibility and enjoyment of this art.
  • Godfrey, Mark, Allie Biswas, et al. The Soul of a Nation Reader: Writings by and about Black American Artists, 1960–1980. New York: DAP, 2021.
  • Golden, Thelma. Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art. Foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994.
    Accompanied Thelma Golden’s iconic exhibition that spoke to and theorized the Black male experience. Uses contemporary cultural events including the Rodney King incident and the Clarence Thomas hearings to deal with Black masculinity in America.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • A compendium of artists and writers confronting questions of Black identity, activism, and social responsibility in the age of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, based on the landmark traveling exhibition.
  • Hartigan, Lynda. Sharing Traditions: Five Black Artists in Nineteenth-Century America from the Collections of the National Museum of American Art. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985.
    Published on the occasion of a group exhibition that included the work of Joshua Johnson, Robert Scott Duncanson, Edward Mitchell Bannister, Edmonia Lewis, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Honig Fine, Elsa. The Afro-American Artist: A Search for Identity. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1982.
    Provides biographical profiles of African American artists, including Dana Chandler, and provides a historic overview of African American artists’ quest for identity
  • Jacobs, Joseph. Since the Harlem Renaissance: 50 Years of Afro-American Art. Lewisburgh, PA: Center Gallery of Bucknell University, 1985.
    Exhibition catalogue for a survey-style exhibition that included work by Dana Chandler and others.
  • Jones, Kellie. EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.
    A collection of essays from Kellie Jones that also features writing by her father, Amiri Baraka, the well-known leader of the Black Arts Movement; and her sister, Lisa Jones, also a writer, on a range of diverse topics concerning the African Diaspora, multiculturalism, and abstraction.
  • Lewis, Samella. African American Art and Artists. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. First published 1990.
    The revised and expanded edition looks at the works and lives of artists from the 18th century to the present, including new work in traditional media as well as in installation art, mixed media, and digital/computer art, and includes work by Dana Chandler.
  • Lloyd, Tom. Black Art Notes. New York: DAP, 2021. First published 1971 by Primary Information (New York).
    A collection of essays originally published in 1971, the book was conceived as a critical response to the exhibition “Contemporary Black Artists in America” at the Whitney Museum of American Art but grew into a “concrete affirmation of Black Art philosophy as interpreted by eight Black artists,” as editor Lloyd notes in the introduction. The artists featured in the publication position the Black Arts Movement outside of white, Western frameworks and articulate the movement as one created by and existing for Black people.
  • Mercer, Kobena. Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge, 1994.
    Brings together ten articles written between 1985 and 1990 that take a critical look at the diversity of Black cultural events, experiences, and practices, and examines new forms of cultural expression in Black film, photography, and visual art.
  • Morris, Catherine, and Rujeko Hockley. We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965–85 (A Sourcebook). Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.
    A catalogue offering a look at Black women’s contributions in the form of written ephemera that spurred arts movements fighting for equality and equity in art institutions.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Murrell, Denise. Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018.
    This revelatory study investigates how changing modes of representing the Black female figure were foundational to the development of modern art, examining in particular the legacy of Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863), arguing that this radical painting marked a fitfully evolving shift toward modernist portrayals of the Black figure as an active participant in everyday life rather than as an exotic “other.”
  • Nadel, Dan, ed. It’s Life as I See It: Black Cartoonists in Chicago, 1940–1980. New York: New York Review Comics, 2021.
    Between the 1940s and 1980s, Chicago’s Black press—from the Chicago Defender, to Negro Digest, to self-published pamphlets—was home to some of the best cartoonists in America. This book attests to the experiences and contributions of Black cartoonists, who found space to address the joys, the horrors, and the everyday realities of Black life in America despite being kept out of the pages of white-owned newspapers.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • National Center of Afro-American Artists. Five Famous Black Artists Presented by the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists: Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Charles White, Hale Woodruff. Boston: National Center of Afro-American Artists, 1970.
    The catalogue for an exhibition on view at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists from February 9 to March 10, 1970.
  • Oguibe, Olu, and Okwui Enwezor. Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.
    Bringing together 20 key essays by major critical thinkers, scholars, and artists, this text offers key readings on contemporary African visual culture and arts, locating it within current cultural debates and within the context of the continent’s history.
  • Patton, Sharon F. African-American Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
    A historical account, organized by era, of the artistic contributions African Americans have made to the art historical canon.
  • Perry, Regenia. Free Within Ourselves: African-American Artists in the Collection of the National Museum of American Art. Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art in association with Pomegranate Artbooks, 1992.
    An invaluable guide to the art and lives of 31 African American artists, drawn from the NMAA’s expansive collection. Encompasses works from the early 1800s to the present by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Lois Maïlou Jones, Romare Bearden, Robert Thompson, and many others.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Powell, Richard J. Black Art: A Cultural History. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003.
    The African diaspora―a direct result of the transatlantic slave trade and Western colonialism―generated a wide array of artistic achievements in the past century, from blues to reggae, from the paintings of Henry Ossawa Tanner to the video installations of Keith Piper. Powell’s study concentrates on the works of art themselves and on how these works, created during a time of major social upheaval and transformation, use Black culture as both subject and context.
  • Powell, Richard J., Virginia M. Mecklenburg, and Theresa Slowik. African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum in association with Skira Rizzoli, 2012.
    Accompanying the Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition of the same name, this catalogue offers an overview essay and rich, vibrant reproductions.
  • Procter, Alice. The Whole Picture: The Colonial Story of the Art in Our Museums & Why We Need to Talk about It. London: Cassell, 2020.
  • Riggs, Thomas, ed. St. James Guide to Black Artists. Ann Arbor, MI: St. James Press in association with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 1997.
    Features biographical and career information, as well as brief critical essays, on nearly four hundred of the most prominent Black artists. Approximately 75 percent of the artists profiled were alive at the time of publication.
  • Robinson, Jontyle Theresa. Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists. New York: Rizzoli, 1996.
    The accompanying catalogue to a Spellman College exhibition of 60 works by 25 African American women artists including Emma Amos, Elizabeth Catlett, Howardena Pindell, Barbara Chase Riboud, Betye Saar, and Faith Ringgold.
  • Sargent, Antwaun. Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists. New York: DAP, 2020.
    Surveys the work of a new generation of Black artists and also features the voices of a diverse group of curators who are on the cutting edge of contemporary art.
  • Shaw, Gwendolyn DuBois. Portraits of a People: Picturing African Americans in the Nineteenth Century. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006.
    Dynamic images of Black sitters, created from the American Revolution through the Civil War and on into the Gilded Age, illuminate the search for a self-possessed identity as well as cultural stereotypes and practices.
  • Shaw, Gwendolyn DuBois, and Richard J. Powell. Represent: 200 Years of African American Art in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.
    Highlights nearly 150 objects in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art that were created by American artists of African descent.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Sims, Lowery Stokes. Common Wealth: Art by African Americans in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: MFA Publications, 2015.
    From enslaved craftspersons to contemporary painters, printmakers, and sculptors, African American artists have created a wealth of artistic expression. This book addresses common experiences, such as exclusion from dominant cultural institutions, and confronts questions of identity and community.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Sirmans, Franklin, Glenn Ligon, Robert Hobbs, and Michele Wallace. 30 Americans. Miami: Rubell Family Collection, 2014.
    Explores the evolving roles of Black subjects in art since the 1970s and highlights pressing social and political issues including ongoing narratives of racial inequality; the construction of racial, gender, and sexual identity; and the pernicious underpinnings and effects of stereotyping.
  • Taha, Halima. Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas. Burlington, VT: Verve Editions, 2008.
    An instructional guide on how to collect African American art offering advice on everything from taxes, insurance, and estate planning to framing and caring for artworks.
  • Examines the possibility of decolonizing our relationship with the art around us and what the future of museums should look like, encouraging readers to go beyond the grand architecture of cultural institutions and see the problematic colonial histories behind them.
  • Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy. New York: Vintage, 1984.
    Looks at five African civilizations—Yoruba, Kongo, Ejagham, Mande, and Cross River—that have an impact on African American and other African Diasporic cultures through their music, textile, architecture, and religion.
  • Wardlaw, Alvia. Black Art Ancestral Legacy: The African Impulse in African-American Art. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1989.
    Examines the impact of African culture on Black artists in the United States.
    Place a hold through the Boston Public Library
  • Whitley, Zoe, and Mark Godfrey. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. New York: DAP, 2017.
    Catalogue accompanying the landmark exhibition, which traveled from the Tate in London across the United States. Documents the period of radical change between 1963 and 1983, when young Black artists at the beginning of their careers confronted a difficult question about art, politics, and racial identity: how to make art that would stand as innovative, original, formally and materially complex, while also making work that reflected their concerns and experience as black Americans?
  • Zorach, Rebeca. Art for People’s Sake: Artists and Community in Black Chicago, 1965–1975. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019.
    Traces the little-told story of the visual arts of the Black Arts Movement in Chicago, showing how artistic innovations responded to decades of racist urban planning that left Black neighborhoods sites of economic depression, infrastructural decay, and violence.