Event—Adult Education

African American Art


Explore the impact and contributions Black artists have made—and continue to make—to American visual culture.

Attributed to Raphaelle Peale, Moses Williams, cutter of profiles. Silhouette, after 1802. Source: Library Company of Philadelphia, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

Class Description

This class surveys the contributions of African American artists to our visual culture. Beginning with crafts produced in the 18th and 19th centuries that reflected African art traditions, we will examine how subsequent portrait and landscape painters adopted academic Western styles.

Significant 20th-century developments include the Harlem Renaissance, murals highlighting the contributions of Black people to American culture, abstraction, and various artists’ groups that promoted a specifically Black aesthetic. The course concludes with a consideration of prominent African American artists working today.

Margaret Farr is an independent art historian with a PhD in art history, specializing in art from 1800 to the present. In addition to teaching classes, she is an adjunct lecturer at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Materials List


  • Digital Course Packet

First Reading

  • Please read the following article for the first session: Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw, "Moses Williams, Cutter of Profiles: Silhouettes and African American Identity in the Early Republic.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 149, No. 1 (Mar., 2005): pp. 22-39.

Cost and Registration

Six sessions, $247 ($220.5 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


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