Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

University of Kansas Doctoral Student Researches 'Dean of African American Painters'

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

University of Kansas Doctoral Student Researches 'Dean of African American Painters'

Article excerpt

LAWRENCE, KAN.

A University of Kansas doctoral student is unraveling the story of Aaron Douglas, the Kansas-born artist who was known as "the dean of African-American painters" in the 1920s and 1930s.

Douglas died at age 79 in 1979 in Nashville, Tenn., where he had taught at Fisk University for 29 years. This June, he was one of three African-American artists from Kansas honored by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and others at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. Topeka's Community Foundation is preparing to recreate one of his most famous murals, and KU's Spencer Museum of Art plans a major exhibition of his work in 2006.

"Today he barely shows up in the mainstream of art history, but in African-American art history he is central," says Cheryl Ragar, a doctoral candidate in American studies, who has been researching Douglas' life and work since 1997. Ragar won a $14,000 Graduate School fellowship this spring to support her dissertation on Douglas' role in African-American art as an artist and a teacher.

Born in Topeka in 1899, Douglas graduated from Topeka High School in 1917 and earned a fine arts degree at the University of Nebraska. …

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