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Black Cultural Research Project Collection
Acc.3322  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The goal of the Black Cultural Research Project was to document and make available resources documenting the work of Black American artists and craftspeople from the 18th century until the mid 20th century. The Director of the Black Culture Research Project, Irene Sawyer, realized the invaluable role comprehensive archival databases played in research and education. Sawyer's quest to create an archival database of work by American Black artists involved her tour of American archives, meeting with curators and fellow art educators, and interviewing artists from 1971 to -1974. By 1976, the Black Cultural Research Project’s collection included 4,300 unique slides, transcribed interviews with artists, artists biographies, and an annotated biography. The resulting effort, The Black Cultural Research Project Archives, is housed at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology archives at the University of California, Berkeley.
Background
Irene Sawyer (1929 -1988) --B.A., M.A., art history Mills College, Oakland, California-- was an artist, art historian, and educator who spearheaded the development of the African American art history field. Sawyer recognized the value of databases of artistic work for researchers in the future. As a result, she worked throughout her career to create archival databases and to develop exhibitions, texts, and educational resources dealing with work by Black artists. Her focus on Black artists was inspired by the Black Power and Black Arts Movements in the 1960s. In addition to championing the Black Cultural Research Project, Sawyer began pursuing her Ph.D. in Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles, writing a dissertation entitled: “The Afro-American Artist-Illustrator: A Cultural and Historical Survey, 1770-1950.” Afterwards, back at the University of California, Berkeley, Sawyer developed multiple art history courses for the campus. One such class was a survey of African American art, probably the university’s first course on African American art history. Sawyer lectured at other universities, delivering University of California, Davis’ and Harvard University’s first courses in African American art history, as well. Additionally, Sawyer was a W.E.B. Du Bois fellow at Harvard University (1977-1979).
Extent
4,300 slide transparencies of Black American artists’ work in various American museums, collections, etc., assembled by Irene Sawyer, Director of the Black Culture Research Project. The majority of the slides are unlabeled.● Slide images of works by African-American artists, such as John Scott, Jacob Lawrence, Henry Tanner, etc. marked “Afro-American Art Slide Collection, U.C. Berkeley.” ● Small grouping of slides of non-African Americans artists Edward Hopper, William Morris Hunt, and William J. Glackens.● Microfilm from sent from UCLA #B-489 addressed to UC Berkeley Black Culture Research containing archival information on the lost Hollywood film “Georgia Rose.” ● Archival documentation.● Related loan file L1974-1975 #3.
Restrictions
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Availability
https://hearstmuseum.berkeley.edu/request-a-research-visit/