PORTER, JAMES A. (JAMES AMOS), 1905-
James A. Porter papers, 1867-2009 (bulk 1920-1995)

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322

404-727-6887

rose.library@emory.edu

Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/8zs6d

Collection Stored Off-Site

All or portions of this collection are housed off-site. Materials can still be requested but researchers should expect a delay of up to two business days for retrieval.


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Porter, James A. (James Amos), 1905-
Title: James A. Porter papers, 1867-2009 (bulk 1920-1995)
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 1139
Extent: 45.5 linear feet (93 boxes), 26 oversized papers (OP), and 1 bound volume (BV)
Abstract:Papers of African American artist and art historian James A. Porter including correspondence, personal papers, artwork, writings, Howard University files, artist and subject files collected by Porter, photographs, and audiovisual material, as well as some papers of wife Dorothy Porter Wesley and daughter Constance Porter Uzelac.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply:

Series 7: Use copies have not been made for audiovisual material in this collection. Researchers must contact the Rose Library at least two weeks in advance for access to these items. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder the Rose Library's ability to provide access to audiovisual material.

Series 9: Access to born digital materials is only available at the computer workstation in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (the Rose Library). Use of the original digital media is restricted. Due to technical complications, the Rose Library is currently unable to provide access to remaining unprocessed born digital materials.

Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Special restrictions apply: Series 9 contains some copies of original materials held by other institutions; these copies may not be reproduced without the permission of the owner of the originals. Researchers are not permitted to copy or download any digital files from the computer workstation.

Related Materials in Other Repositories

Dorothy Porter Wesley papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Related Materials in This Repository

the Rose Library holds books formerly owned by James Amos Porter. These materials may be located in the Emory University online catalog by searching for: Porter, James Amos, former owner. Among these is the rare The Gilly Willies (Hamburg, 1960), written and illustrated by Porter's student, Mildred Thompson.

Source

Purchase, 2010 with subsequent additions.

Citation

[after identification of item(s)], James A. Porter papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Processing

Arranged and described to the folder level by Sarah Quigley, Michael Camp, Ingrid Meintjes, and Anastasiia Strakhova, 2015.

Born digital materials processed by Dorothy Waugh, May 2015.


Collection Description

Biographical Note

James Amos Porter (1905-1970) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 22, 1905, to Lydia and John Porter. He studied art and art history under the direction of James V. Herring at Howard University (Washington, D.C.) and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1927. He also studied at the Art Institute of New York; the Institute of Art and Archeology at the Sorbonne (Paris), from which he received a Certificat de Presence (1935); and New York University, where he earned a Master of Arts in Art History (1937). He was an instructor of painting and drawing at Howard University, and eventually became the head of the university's art department and director of the Gallery of Art in 1953. He published Modern Negro Art, a seminal work documenting African American art from the 18th century to the mid-twentieth century, in 1943.

While studying in New York, Porter met Dorothy Burnett, a librarian at the Harlem branch of The New York Public Library. They were married in 1929, and had one child, Constance.

In addition to being an art historian and critic, Porter was also a successful artist, exhibiting his works nationally and internationally throughout his career. In 1933, he received the Schomburg Portrait Prize from the Harmon Foundation for Woman Holding a Jug (1930). His paintings can be found in art collections and museums, including Howard University, the National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.), and the Baltimore Museum of Art. He died on February 28, 1970.

James Amos Porter (1905-1970) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 22, 1905, to Lydia and John Porter. He studied art and art history under the direction of James V. Herring at Howard University (Washington, D.C.) and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1927. He also studied at the Art Institute of New York; the Institute of Art and Archeology at the Sorbonne (Paris), from which he received a Certificat de Presence (1935); and New York University, where he earned a Master of Arts in Art History (1937). He was an instructor of painting and drawing at Howard University, and eventually became the head of the university's art department and director of the Gallery of Art in 1953. He published Modern Negro Art, a seminal work documenting African American art from the 18th century to the mid-twentieth century, in 1943.

While studying in New York, Porter met Dorothy Burnett, a librarian at the Harlem branch of The New York Public Library. They were married in 1929, and had one child, Constance.

In addition to being an art historian and critic, Porter was also a successful artist, exhibiting his works nationally and internationally throughout his career. In 1933, he received the Schomburg Portrait Prize from the Harmon Foundation for Woman Holding a Jug (1930). His paintings can be found in art collections and museums, including Howard University, the National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.), and the Baltimore Museum of Art. He died on February 28, 1970.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of James A. Porter from 1867-2009 including correspondence and personal papers; artwork and writings by Porter; artist and subject files collected by Porter; printed material; photographs; audiovisual material; and a small amount of personal papers of his wife, Dorothy Porter Wesley, and daughter, Constance Porter Uzelac. Correspondence contains both personal and professional letters, including letters between Porter and his wife. Their correspondence includes letters from Porter documenting his artistic interests while travelling and studying throughout Europe and the Caribbean. Professional correspondence consists of letters relating to Porter's employment at Howard University; his various engagements with the Department of State and the Foreign Service; letters to and from the President of Howard University, Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson; and former students in their professional capacity, such as artist and scholar David C. Driskell and sculptor Leslie Garland Bolling. There are also letters detailing Porter's commissions and gifts of his artwork. Personal papers consist of Porter's academic records, biographical information, publication contracts, and materials relating to Porter's travels.

Artwork and writings by Porter include lectures and essays, poems, notebooks and sketchbooks. The lectures and essays are often annotated and cover topics such as art education, art history, African American art as an academic field, and the history of the African diaspora. There are multiple works on the artist Robert Duncanson, but the series does not contain a complete draft of Modern Negro Art or its planned follow-up volume. Poetry by Porter deals with themes of religion and spirituality, while notebooks and sketchbooks include poem drafts, research notes, sketches and other drawings. Howard University files are comprised of teaching and administrative records documenting Porter's roles as head of Howard University's Art Department and director of the Gallery of Art (1953-1970); they include syllabi, lectures, exams, exhibit planning documents, project proposals, and materials pertaining to Porter's involvement in the Art Student-Faculty Committee, the Committee of Department Heads, and the Graduate Council.

Artist and subject files primarily document Porter's research interests in African American art history and his personal and professional relationships with other artists and scholars. Files include correspondence, photographs, research material, printed material, and occasionally original artwork. There is extensive documentation on the artists Carmelo Gonzalez, Ernesto Gonzalez, Edmonia Lewis, John Payne, and Mildred Thompson, a former student of Porter's. Subject files also pertain to Porter's professional activities outside of Howard University, including his work with the American Society of African Culture (AMSAC) and the National Conference of Artists, as well as his participation in the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. Photographs are of James A. Porter, his wife Dorothy Porter Wesley, students, colleagues, and Dorothy's second husband Charles H. Wesley. There are also photographs of cityscapes, landscapes and artwork acquired at local museums or taken by James A. Porter during his trips to Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Senegal.

Printed material by and about the Porter family includes articles; book reviews; forewords James Porter; advertisements and descriptions of James Porter's exhibitions; articles and reference aids by Dorothy Porter Wesley, promotions for her books and talks; and programs for memorial events organized in honor of James and Dorothy. Other printed material includes fliers and handbills, programs, brochures, newsletters, postcards, and other items documenting African and African diasporic art, African American organizations such as Howard University, and other cultural and educational events. Audiovisual material consists of radio interviews of James Porter, a talk and discussion between Porter and other art historians on the subject of African American art, and educational materials.

The Dorothy Porter Wesley papers contain appointment books, correspondence, notebooks, files documenting her work with organizations including the Phelps-Stokes Fund and the Smithsonian Institution, files documenting her art and book collections, and files relating to the death and estate of James Porter. There is also a small collection of correspondence to Glenn Carrington from Ophelia Settle Egypt. There is a small amount of documentation of Wesley's work as a librarian at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, primarily including correspondence, receipts documenting book acquisitions, notes, and a notebook. The Constance Porter Uzelac papers primarily document Uzelac's work to preserve and promote use of the papers of her parents through the Dorothy Porter Wesley Research Center and the Westport Gallery. There are inventories, appraisals, and conservation reports of her parents' book and art collections, along with biographical information compiled by Uzelac and planning materials documenting memorial colloquia and exhibitions in honor of Porter and Wesley. There is also a small amount of personal research on the history of African Americans in medicine.

Arrangement Note

Organized into 9 series: (1) Correspondence and personal papers, (2) Artwork and writings, (3) Howard University files, (4) Artist and subject files, (5) Photographs, (6) Printed material, (7) Audiovisual material, (8) Dorothy Porter Wesley papers, and (9) Constance Porter Uzelac papers


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Description of Series

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