Cover image for Wake up our souls : a celebration of Black American artists
Wake up our souls : a celebration of Black American artists

Publication Information:
New York : H.N. Abrams ; [Washington, D.C.] : Published in Association with Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2004.
Physical Description:
128 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 27 cm.
Reading Level:
1190 L Lexile
Presents a history of African American visual arts and artists from the days of slavery to the present.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 704.03 BOL 1 1
Book J 704.03 BOL 1 1

On Order



This book highlights influential and important African American 20th-century artists, from those of the early part of the century who were actively discouraged from pursuing their talent, to important participants in the Harlem Renaissance to modern and contemporary artists. The text also includes sidebars highlighting individual pictures and creators, completing a wonderful chapter in the history of American art and in African American life and achievement. Published in conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation's greatest repository of African American art, the book includes works by Romare Bearden, Roy DeCarava, Betye Saar, and Augusta Savage, among many others. From Faith Ringgold's fabric interpretation of the Harlem Renaissance to Gordon Parks' celebrated 1996 photograph of Muhammad Ali, the paintings, sculptures, and photographs reproduced here reflect the rich and varied experience of African American artists in the 20th century.

Author Notes

Tonya Bolden is the author of ten books, including "Strong Men Keep Coming", "The Family Heirloom Cookbook", & "33 Things Every Girl Should Know". She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-The unique place of African-American art in our culture is celebrated in this brightly designed volume, produced in conjunction with the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. Bolden's writing is rich and lyrical. She smoothly incorporates the historical context, explaining pivotal events and relevant artistic movements clearly and succinctly. One notable example is her discussion of the civil rights movement and the formation of Spiral, a group whose members debated the role of their art in the movement, resulting in the 1965 exhibition, Works in Black and White. All of the art is from the museum's collection. The reproductions are of top quality, but in a few instances, a major work of an artist is discussed but not pictured. Also, occasional sidebars or inserts, which feature lengthy biographical sketches and discussions of the artists' work, sometimes interrupt the flow of the text. A glossary of artistic terms, source notes for the original quotes used, and an index complete this welcome addition to art history collections.-Robin L. Gibson, formerly at Perry County District Library, New Lexington, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Wake Up Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists by Tonya Bolden offers a thorough look into the lives of black artists. She begins with artists such as sculptor Edmonia Lewis and painter Edward Mitchell Bannister and chronicles the racism and discrimination these and later artists faced-forces that often inspired visually arresting works, such as Norman Lewis's Evening Rendezvous (1962), a chilling, abstract portrayal of Ku Klux Klan activity in a red, white and blue palette. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Approximately thirty African-American artists are highlighted in this well-organized book. In clear prose, the author gives us a survey of two hundred years of African-American fine art, devoting equal attention to biography and art history. Reproductions of works are accompanied by excellent brief critiques. Illustration credits, notes, reading list. Glos., ind. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-12. In her introduction, Bolden writes that her book, published in conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is not meant to be a comprehensive history of the black American artistic legacy. Instead, she offers a beautifully illustrated introduction, in simple, graceful language, to a selection of African American artists, beginning with the nineteenth century and moving to the present. Accompanying each small biography is a box featuring a well-reproduced, representative work from each included artist and a discussion, in clear, succinct language, that will encourage readers to look closely at the images (and visual art in general) and form their own opinions of what they see. A few of the art terms, such as cubism and neoclassicism, are vaguely defined, but a planned glossary, unavailable in the galley, will hopefully clear up readers' questions. A time line placing the artists in historical context would also have been welcome, but Bolden's text does a fine job of describing the larger social and political climate in which the artists worked as well as the pervasive discrimination they suffered, and her coverage of early African American cultural organizations, such as the Harlem Artist's Guild, is particularly fascinating. Elegant and concise, this handsome volume joins a growing collection of exceptional youth titles about African American visual artists. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2004 Booklist

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 7
Early Strivingsp. 9
Great Awakeningsp. 33
Upward & Outwardp. 73
Afterwordp. 115
Glossary of Art Termsp. 116
Notesp. 119
Selected Bibliographyp. 123
Suggested Readingp. 124
Illustration Creditsp. 125
Indexp. 127