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#SaturdayStamps: Aaron Douglas

In both his style and his subjects, Aaron Douglas revolutionized African-American art. A leader within the Harlem Renaissance, Douglas created a broad range of work that helped to shape this movement and bring it to national prominence. Through his collaborations, illustrations, and public murals, he established a method of combining elements of modern art and African culture to celebrate the African-American experience and call attention to racism and segregation.

Key Ideas

Douglas depicted African subjects in an innovative and bold graphic style that was inspired by modern art, particularly Cubism. His approach elevated both everyday experiences and non-Western history to be part of an international avant-garde. He also integrated the rhythms of jazz into his compositions, adding an additional element of African-American culture to his imagery.
Flattening his figures to two-dimensional silhouettes and generalizing their forms to be generic men and women, Douglas created imagery that celebrated African and African-American themes in terms that were universal and integrative. He employed this style across a range of different media, including painting, illustration, murals, and prints.
Douglas often worked with a narrow range of colors, instead using compositional elements and shapes like concentric circles and radiating beams, to create dramatic focal points and dynamic movement. These abstract elements enhanced the narratives of his paintings to make them more emotionally impactful.
Through his work with the Harlem Artists Guild and as the chair of the art department at Fisk University (a historically black college), Douglas worked to increase educational access and career opportunities for young African-American artists. He was an important mentor for second-generation Harlem Renaissance artists and an inspiration to contemporary artists who deal with race and identity in their work.

#SaturdayStamps: John Johnson

John Johnson, the founder of Johnson Publishing Company, which publishes Ebony and Jet magazines, is the 35th honoree in the Black Heritage stamp series. The Postal Service has recognized the achievements of prominent African Americans through the Black Heritage series since 1978. Past honorees have included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Madam C.J. Walker, Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Marian Anderson, Langston Hughes and Barbara Jordan.

“John Johnson’s unyielding commitment to journalistic excellence and his unparalleled reporting on African American culture have distinguished him as one of America’s greatest publishers,” said USPS Chicago Senior Plant Manager Anthony Vaughan.

Joining Vaughan to dedicate the stamp at Johnson Publishing Company’s Chicago offices today were Linda Johnson Rice, chairman, Johnson Publishing Co.; Desiree Rogers, CEO, Johnson Publishing Co.; Rahm Emanuel, mayor, Chicago; Richard M. Daley, former mayor, Chicago; U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, 7th Congressional District; and Rev. James Meeks, Salem Baptist Church of Chicago.

“I’m immensely proud that my father and his life’s passion are being recognized in such a high honor as the Black Heritage Stamp,” said Linda Johnson Rice. “His legacy lives on in all whom he touched and in the work we continue to do daily.” The stamp goes on sale today at Post Offices nationwide, online at usps.com and by phone at 800-782-6724.

From poverty to the pinnacle of American society, Johnson’s journey was extraordinary. He was born in Arkansas City, AR., where schools were segregated and there were no high schools for black students. By the time of his death at age 87, he commanded a business empire encompassing magazines, cosmetics, radio stations, book publishing and more. In 1982, he became the first black person to appear on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the 400 wealthiest people in America.

Johnson was the trailblazing publisher of Negro Digest, Ebony, Jet, and other magazines that showcased African American accomplishments at a time when such affirmation was rare in mainstream media. In 1946, the year after it was founded, Ebony landed its first national advertising account. Selling advertising space to white-owned corporations and persuading them to use black models in their ads were major breakthroughs.

In recognition of his achievements, Johnson received many prizes and honors, including the NAACP’s prestigious Spingarn Medal in 1966 and being named publisher of the year by industry peers in 1972. President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, and a panel of experts polled by Baylor University in 2003 named Johnson the greatest minority entrepreneur in American history.

#SaturdayStamps: Robert Robinson Taylor

The stamp honors Robert Robinson Taylor (1868-1942). The son of emancipated slaves, he was the first black student to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  When he graduated in 1892, he became the first fully accredited African-American architect in America.

During his time at MIT, Taylor met Booker T. Washington.  President of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Washington focused on education to fight discrimination in the post-Civil War South.  He was impressed with Taylor and recruited him to teach at the school.

As the drafting instructor and architect to the Tuskegee Institute, Taylor was dedicated to promoting Washington’s self-help philosophy.  His architectural debut, Science Hall, was constructed entirely by the students, right down to the bricks.  But Taylor’s second project, the Tuskegee Chapel, was his proudest accomplishment.  Washington once referred to it as the most imposing building on campus.  Taylor’s designs and structures were said to epitomize the institute’s standards of excellence.

Taylor spent the majority of his career at Tuskegee.  He became a model of achievement   through his many contributions – a symbol of pride for the Tuskegee Institute and the nation.

The God Of Wonders

Thou art the God that doest wonders:  thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid : the depths also were troubled. (Psalm 77:14-16)

Within our world of modern technology and conveniences, it is so easy to take the things of God for granted.  God has blessed us with things well beyond our greatest imaginations.  However, with the easy convenience of everything, we sometimes forget that none of these things would be possible without God’s grace in our lives.  No matter how much we may attain, we are not self-sufficient. Every good and perfect gift is from God.  Whenever we face situations that seem insurmountable, we need to remember that God is in control.  He is the God of wonders who does what seems impossible. Just ask those who have been healed of terminal illnesses.  No situation is too big or small for God.  We need to trust him with all of our cares for he cares for us.

Prayer:  Father, as you are more than we could ever imagine, teach us to remember all of your wonderful works in our lives.  Teach us, O Lord, to fully trust in you.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

— Joel & Victoria Osteen