Aaron Douglas was born in 1899 in Topeka, Kansas. He would become on of the American artist most closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance. In 1925, Douglas moved to Harlem, New York to be part of the New Negro Movement, which expressed African Americans’ new pride in their African heritage.
Shortly after his arrival in New York, he began creating illustrations for two important magazines associated with the Harlem Renaissance, The Crisis and Opportunity. Aaron Douglas also studied art under German artist, Winold Reiss. Reiss introduced and help develop a modernist style for Douglas’s work.
In 1928–29, Douglas studied African and Modern European art at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania . By 1931, he studied in Paris at the Academie Scandinave traditional French painting and drawing techniques. Back in the United States, in 1940, he founded the Art Department at Fisk University and taught there for almost 30 years.
Aaron Douglas is often considered the “Father of African American arts.” He depicted black Americans and their tie with their African past. His work highlighted black contributions to society long before the civil rights movement. Aaron Douglas’s work has had powerful influence on future generations of black artists.