Works in the Collection
Louise Jefferson was born in 1908 in Washington D.C. She studied fine art at Hunter College and graphic arts at Columbia University. While in New York, Jefferson helped to found the Harlem Artist’s Guild, an organization dedicated to encouraging and supporting artists. Augusta Savage, Aaron Douglas, Selma Burke, and Jacob Lawrence, among others, were also members of the Guild. Jefferson scraped by doing freelance work around the city until a project with the National Council of Churches turned into a full-time position as the Artistic Director for Friendship Press, the publishing branch of the Council. Jefferson was the first African American woman in the publishing industry to hold such an important position.
While working at Friendship Press, Jefferson continued to do freelance work, creating materials for publishing companies and socially-minded organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League. She retired from Friendship Press in 1960 and embarked on a massive research project on African art forms. She traveled to Africa 5 times, and the photographs and drawings from her trips became a book titled The Decorative Arts of Africa that was published in 1973. Throughout her life, Jefferson worked in illustration, design, and cartography, but she is often best remembered for her photography. She passed in 2002.