Black History in the Arts

Black History is American history! Celebrate Black History Month by learning about the impactful work of Black artists and activists throughout American history.

Edmonia Lewis gained prominence during the Civil War for her sculptural busts of leading military and political figures, abolitionists, and activists in the fight for emancipation. She is considered the only Black female artist to have been actively working in and recognized by the American artistic mainstream during these years.

Joshua Johnson is celebrated as one of the earliest professional Black portrait artists working in 18th and 19th century Baltimore.

Robert Douglass Jr., raised in an influential abolitionist family, was one of the first Black artists trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and at the Royal Academy of Art, London. An accomplished early 19th-century artist, known for his landscape paintings and photography, he was also a political leader at the National Colored Conventions in the years leading up to the Civil War.

Late 19th-century Realist painter, Henry O. Tanner, recognized for his biblical and genre paintings that challenged pervasive Black cultural stereotypes with sensitivity and dignity, was the first Black American artist to gain international acclaim.

The early 20th century brought the Harlem Renaissance, a rich cross-disciplinary artistic and cultural revolution among African Americans, whose shared experiences of slavery, emancipation, and racial oppression, as well as a desire for racial empowerment and self-definition, fueled the groundbreaking work of Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, Augusta Savage, Jacob Lawrence, Aaron Douglas and James Van Der Zee.

Mid-20th-century artists like James Wells, Charles Alston, and Romare Bearden, further defined the era by exploring civil rights issues of race, segregation and inequity, giving rise to some of America’s first Black cultural icons like Gordon Parks, and Jean-Michele Basquiat.

Their provocative artwork paved the way for contemporary artists who continue to center themes of social justice like Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley, Bisa Butler, and Theaster Gates, just to name a few.

Lansing Street Gallery is delighted to carry the work of local artist, Thomas T. Thomas, who splits his time between Philo, California and the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. Thomas’ journey into painting was totally by accident, but since then, he has developed an intense passion for painting and creating wonderful canvases filled with color, light and movement.

Thomas’ diverse educational background has provided a fascinating backdrop for his varied interests: art, music, business, and wine. With a degree in Music and Voice Performance from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, Thomas is also an accomplished Jazz and Classical Guitarist. Additionally, Thomas holds an MBA in Finance and enjoys a successful and distinguished business career. In his spare time(!), Thomas has created an award-winning winery(!!) in the beautiful Anderson Valley, where he specializes in Pinot Noir.

We are thrilled to carry a small, but powerful, body of Thomas’ work this spring, while planning for a solo show in September. To see more of Thomas’ wonderful abstract original artwork, stop by the gallery in Mendocino and find what speaks to you.


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