James Baldwin

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of the writer james baldwin

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of James Baldwin, the novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His essay explored tensions and racial, sexual, and class distinctions in mid 20th century America.

Side note: The documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” is in theaters now. It’s based on Baldwin’s observations on American race relations. Definitely go see it when you get the chance.

Now available for purchase here.

Janet Jackson

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Janet Jackson. She’s known for her innovation in her sonically innovative records, innovative choreography, and innovative music videos. She’s the only female artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to have 18 consecutive top ten hot singles.

Also, to be honest, I really wanted to draw shots from my favorite Janet music video, lol. I love the lighting and the setting.

Oscar Micheaux

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of the filmmaker oscar micheaux

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Oscar Micheaux (1859-1937), the first major Black filmmaker and the most successful Black filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century. He wrote, produced and directed over 40 films between 1919 and 1948. His films featured contemporary black life and often dealt with racial relationships in society.

Now available for purchase here.

Josephine Baker

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of the entertainer josephine baker

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Josephine Baker. She was the first Black person to become a world famous entertainer and the first to star in a major motion picture. Originally from St. Louis, she became a citizen of France in 1937. In the US, she refused to perform in front of segregated audiences and she also contributed to the Civil Rights Movement.

Now available for purchase here.

Henry Ossawa Tanner

a black history illustration by alleanna harris of the painter henry ossawa tanner

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), the first Black painter to gain international acclaim.

After self-study, he enrolled in 1878 at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia and was the only black student. Tanner made many connections among artists and became a favorite of his teacher Thomas Eakins, one of the most important artists in American art history. Tanner later moved to Paris in 1891.

Side note: My mom and I went to PAFA to look at Tanner’s exhibit a few years ago. His work is amazing. Please look him and his paintings up!

Now available for purchase here.

Ebony Magazine

a set of black history illustrations by alleanna harris of classic ebony magazine covers

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Ebony magazine, one of the oldest black magazines in the country. It debuted in 1945 and was modeled after Life magazine.

Ebony earned a strong national reputation for celebrating Black culture. In the 60s, it provided reliable coverage of the civil rights movement. It positively portrayed Black life by refuting stereotypes and discussing ways to overcome racial barriers/obstacles to success. Ebony continues to celebrate Black culture and its contributions to American society.

Side note: These are some of my favorite classic Ebony covers.

Marvin Gaye

a black history illustration and gif by alleanna harris of the legendary soul singer marvin gaye

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 concept album What’s Going On. This album is considered one of the greatest albums of the 20th century and one of the landmark recordings in pop music history.

The album is from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning back to the US and seeing hatred and injustice. Marvin Gaye’s lyrics discuss themes such as the Vietnam War, poverty, drug abuse and global warming.

Now available for purchase here.

Paul R. Williams

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of the architect paul r williams

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Paul R. Williams, the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects.

He was an outstanding draftsman, and had the skill of rendering drawings upside down. He developed the skill so that his white clients (who might have been uncomfortable sitting next to a black architect) could see his drawings right side up across the table from him.

Williams designed over 2,000 homes, including the homes of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, and Frank Sinatra. He also designed buildings such as Theme Building at the Los Angeles International Airport, the Los Angeles County Courthouse, and redesigned the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Now available for purchase here.

Ella Fitzgerald

a black history month illustration by alleanna harris of the legendary jazz singer ella fitzgerald

Today’s Black History Month illustration is of Ella Fitzgerald, the first Black woman to win a Grammy award. Often called the First Lady of Song, Fitzgerald is known for her tone, diction, phrasing, intonation and scatting/improvisational ability.

Side note: this is a pencil sketch that I did a little while ago! Back to the computer tomorrow.

Now available for purchase here.