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David Driskell, African American artist, historian and curator dies of coronavirus

David C. Driskell, was an artist, art historian, art collector, art teacher, author and curator who became a primary sponsor and renowned advocate for the role of African American art in the national culture. He sadly died from the coronavirus on April 1 in Washington. He was 88.

The cause was complications from the illness, said Rodney Moore, his nephew.

A renowned art historian, curator, and artist, David Driskell (b. 1931) began teaching at Talladega College, a historically black college in Alabama, in 1955. That same year Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy from Chicago, was brutally murdered by two white men in Money, Mississippi, for allegedly flirting with a white woman at a grocery store. The men were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury, even though both men later confessed to the murder during an interview with Look magazine. Driskell was so disturbed by these events he created Behold Thy Son (1956) in Till’s memory.

Mr. Driskell served on the art faculties of several historically black colleges but was best known for his affiliation with the University of Maryland from 1977 to 1998. The university’s Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora, founded in 2001, was named in his honor.

Mr. Driskell was said to have amassed one of the most comprehensive private collections in the country of mostly African American and African art.

His father was a blacksmith who also made furniture and served as pastor of two Baptist churches. His mother wove baskets from bulrushes and pine needles and made quilts.

Mr. Driskell was the first in his family to go to college. But he didn’t know that to attend, he had to apply. He just showed up one day at Howard University and talked his way in.

The Urban Kapital community salute Mr. Driskall


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