Themes in Art

Artists of the African Diaspora

Through history, art has been a powerful tool for challenging entrenched racial biases, exposing injustice, and opening windows into the lives of oppressed and silenced people and communities. But the arts, like every other social system in America, is institutionally biased against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Below is a list of organizations and non-profits who work tirelessly to create opportunities for BIPOC and Queer artists in the U.S. Please consider supporting them through donations or sharing.

Finally, take some time to get to know a few of the Black artists that have told their stories through paint, print and sculpture. I recommend the 60-painting Migration Series by Jacob Lawrence, which tells the story of the more than a million Black Americans who fled the rural south after the start of WWI, and the horrific violence they faced while leaving, on the journey, and on their arrival in the north.

Black Artists + Designers GuildDonate

A global platform representing independent Black artists, makers and designers, dedicated to creating dialogue and rewriting the misrepresented legacy of Black artists and designers.

Arts Leaders of Color Emergency FundDonate

Support BIPOC artists and administrators, including consultants, facilitators, box office staff, seasonal and temporary employees, etc. who have been financially impacted due to COVID-19.

African American Arts & Culture ComplexDonate

Empowering the San Francisco Bay Area through Afro-centric artistic and cultural expression, mediums, education, and programming.

Black Artist Fund, by 10011Donate

A fund to raise money for distribution to Black artists and Black art collectives in the U.S.

Black Trans Femmes in the ArtsDonate

BTFA Collective is connecting the community of black trans women and non-binary femmes in the arts.

Harlem Arts AllianceDonate

A network of established and emerging visual and performing artists, businesses, and institutions that partners with major arts institutions in New York to increase its members’ visibility.

Black Art FuturesDonate

Philanthropists promoting the elevation and preservation of Black arts & culture, through grant making, board-matching, and organization-to-donor cultivation, to amplify and strengthen the future of Black art.


Got questions, comments or corrections about Artists of the African Diaspora? Join the conversation in our Discord, and if you enjoy content like this, consider becoming a member for exclusive essays, downloadables, and discounts in the Obelisk Store.

Reed Enger, "Artists of the African Diaspora," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 10, 2020; last modified October 11, 2022,

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Aaron Douglas, The ArtistsPortrait of Aaron Douglas

Aaron Douglas

Projections of determination

1899 – 1979
Alma Thomas, The ArtistsPortrait of Alma Thomas

Alma Thomas

Tackling abstraction at 75

1891 – 1978
Archibald Motley, The ArtistsPortrait of Archibald Motley

Archibald Motley

1891 – 1981
Augusta Savage, The ArtistsPortrait of Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage

Sculptor, teacher and warrior for civil rights

1892 – 1962
Barkley L. Hendricks, The ArtistsPortrait of Barkley L. Hendricks

Barkley L. Hendricks

1945 – 2017
Benny Andrews, The ArtistsPortrait of Benny Andrews

Benny Andrews

1930 – 2006
Bertina Lopes, The ArtistsPortrait of Bertina Lopes

Bertina Lopes

1924 – 2012
Bill Traylor, The ArtistsPortrait of Bill Traylor

Bill Traylor

It's never too late to tell your story

1854 – 1949
Bob Thompson, The ArtistsPortrait of Bob Thompson

Bob Thompson

1937 – 1966
Charles Alston, The ArtistsPortrait of Charles Alston

Charles Alston

"The idea of a march was growing"

1907 – 1977
Charles White, The ArtistsPortrait of Charles White

Charles White

Images of dignity

1918 – 1979
Claude Clark, The ArtistsPortrait of Claude Clark

Claude Clark

1915 – 2001
Elizabeth Catlett, The ArtistsPortrait of Elizabeth Catlett

Elizabeth Catlett

1915 – 2012
Gordon Parks, The ArtistsPortrait of Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

Modern Day Polymath

1912 – 2006
Gwendolyn Knight, The ArtistsPortrait of Gwendolyn Knight

Gwendolyn Knight

“No one can tell us who we are”

1913 – 2005
Harriet Powers, The Artists

Harriet Powers

A freed slave tells stories in quilts

1837 – 1910
Henry Ossawa Tanner, The ArtistsPortrait of Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner

A quiet man transcends racism to bring art back to religion

1859 – 1937
Horace Pippin, The ArtistsPortrait of Horace Pippin

Horace Pippin

1888 – 1946
Jack Whitten, The ArtistsPortrait of Jack Whitten

Jack Whitten

1939 – 2018
Jacob Lawrence, The ArtistsPortrait of Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence

1917 – 2000
James Van Der Zee, The ArtistsPortrait of James Van Der Zee

James Van Der Zee

Don't just document, celebrate

1886 – 1983
Laura Wheeler Waring, The ArtistsPortrait of Laura Wheeler Waring

Laura Wheeler Waring

1887 – 1948
Loïs Mailou Jones, The ArtistsPortrait of Loïs Mailou Jones

Loïs Mailou Jones

The joy of African color and design

1905 – 1998
Mary Edmonia Lewis, The ArtistsPortrait of Mary Edmonia Lewis

Mary Edmonia Lewis

African-American Chippewa woman takes over sculpture

1844 – 1907
Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, The ArtistsPortrait of Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller

Delicate Sculptor of Horrors

1877 – 1968
Norman Lewis, The ArtistsPortrait of Norman Lewis

Norman Lewis

Making your own way to contribute to culture

1909 – 1979
Palmer Hayden, The ArtistsPortrait of Palmer Hayden

Palmer Hayden

1890 – 1973
Robert S. Duncanson, The ArtistsPortrait of Robert S. Duncanson

Robert S. Duncanson

1821 – 1872
Romare Bearden, The ArtistsPortrait of Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden

1911 – 1988
Thornton Dial, The ArtistsPortrait of Thornton Dial

Thornton Dial

1928 – 2016
Uzo Egonu, The ArtistsPortrait of Uzo Egonu

Uzo Egonu

1931 – 1996
William H. Johnson, The ArtistsPortrait of William H. Johnson

William H. Johnson

Painting my people

1901 – 1970
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