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The sunflower: class of June 1915

Collection Data

Douglas, Aaron (Artist)
Dates / Origin
Date Issued: 1915
Place: Topeka, Kansas
Publisher: Topeka High School
Library locations
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division
Shelf locator: Sc Rare F 17-3
Topeka High School -- History
Topeka High School -- Students
School yearbooks -- Kansas -- Topeka
High schools -- Kansas -- Topeka
Biographical/historical: Earliest known published work by artist, illustrator, and Harlem Renaissance figure Aaron Douglas, the man who Alain Locke would dub "the father of Black American art." Douglas (1899-1977) was born in Topeka, Kansas, where he attended segregated elementary schools and went on to attend the integrated Topeka High School from 1914-1917; he was one of only eight African Americans in his graduating class. "During his high school years Douglas focused on his drafting techniques, taking special pleasure in mastering the human form. His signed works from these years reflect this early interest in line work. He created the cover art for two of the school's yearbooks in June 1915 and June 1917. Each cover depicts a sunflower, the given name of the Topeka High annual. The earlier image seems more traditionally stylistically, reflecting, perhaps, his early grasp of illustrative techniques" (see Cheryl R Ragar's essay "Aaron Douglas: Influences and Impacts of the Early Years" in EARLE, Susan (ed.). Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist(2007), p. 79). The Arts and Crafts aesthetic, combined with the humble material used for the covers, gives the yearbook the overall sense of a hand-made object. Douglas was not credited in print for the cover among the artists noted on the yearbook staff page, though he would be by his senior year. He appears in a single photograph (upper left corner) of a group called the B.O.W.S. (Brothers of Winsome Sisters). A fascinating and little-known object, marking the beginning of a long and illustrious career.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 volume (unpaged) : portraits, illustrations ; 25 cm
Type of Resource
Still image
RLIN/OCLC: 987963553
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b21273825
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 30d0f500-3363-0135-5582-27f94a9276aa
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