Horace Pippin (February 22, 1888 – July 6, 1946), was a self-taught African-American painter whose subject matter ranged from trench warfare to historical, and religious.
He was born West Chester, Pennsylvania until he was three when his family moved to Goshen, New York. He left school at fifteen to support his ailing mother. After she died, he moved to New Jersey and worked various jobs before enlisting in the army in 1917. During the war, he recorded his experiences, including drawings. His papers are housed at the Archives of American Art. He seriously wounded his right arm in France and received the French Croix de Guerre. He left the army in 1919 and married the following year before returning to West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Pippin’s injury led him to explore other artistic expressions, including pyrography, or burnt-wood panels (he drew on wood using hot pokers). But he preferred oil painting and it became a form of therapy to deal with his memories from the war. In the early 1930s, he completed an oil panting on the about his experiences, called The End of the War: Starting Home.
He was the first black painter to use art to express concerns about war and sociopolitical injustice, and to have his paintings accepted by the West Chester County Art Association. He became known regionally and in 1939 his fame spread when the Robert Carlen Galleries of Philadelphia became his dealer. The following year, Pippin gave sporadic lectures at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. His most renowned works include three paintings of the abolitionist John Brown. He also created a series of paintings based on the Bible and the works of the Quaker painter Edward Hicks.
In 1938, the Museum of Modern Art included four of Pippin’s paintings in a traveling exhibit. By the time he died in 1946, he had solo shows in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, had won prizes in important contemporary art shows had become famous internationally, and sold most of his 130 paintings, wood panels, and drawings to museums and influential collectors across the country.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825–February 22, 1911) was a poet, fiction writer, journalist, and activist. She was born in Baltimore, the only child of free black parents. She attended the Academy for Negro Youth, which her uncle founded, until age 13. Then she went to work in a Quaker household where she read a wide range of literature.
In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which required escaped slaves who were captured to be returned to their masters. Harper moved to Ohio and began teaching at the Union Seminary, a new school for black children in Columbus. The principal was abolitionist John Brown. Harper was the first black woman to teach vocational courses at the school, teaching domestic and homemaking skills.
In 1851, Harper moved to Pennsylvania and worked with William Still, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which helped slaves escape to Canada on the Underground Railroad. She became a traveling speaker on abolition and wrote for anti-slavery newspapers, becoming the “mother of African American journalism.”
She was a prolific writer who published many poetry collections, such as Autumn Leaves (also published as Forest Leaves) (1845); Sketches of Southern Life (1872), about the post-Civil War (1861-1865) Reconstruction and novels, including Iola Leroy (1892), essay collections, and short stories, such as “The Two Offers,” the first short story published by an African American.
She married Fenton Harper in 1860. After he died in 1864, Harper continued to support her family though speaking engagements. She championed civil rights, women’s rights, and educational opportunities for all. She was superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), co-founder and vice president of the National Association of Colored Women, and a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association, and director of the American Association of Colored Youth. Harper died nine years before women gained the right to vote.