On this day in 1932, painter Jeff Donaldson was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a black college town.
From a young age, Donaldson expressed his interest in art, encouraging him to begin drawing cartoons and comic books. He later enrolled enrolling in the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he established the school’s very first arts major.
After graduating from the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago with a master’s degree in Fine Arts, Donaldson earned his Ph.D. in African and African American Art History from Northwestern University.
Donaldson played a large role in forming the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) in Chicago. In 1967, he organized a workshop within the community to paint a mural, the Wall of Respect. The mural sparked a series of other outdoor murals painted in cities across the United States throughout the 1970’s.
With the help of other black artists such as Wadsorth Jarrell and Barbara Jones-Hogu, Donaldson founded AfriCobra (an acronym for African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) in Chicago in 1968. The organization encouraged artists to take pride in their black self-identity and to become involved in the community.
Throughout the course of his career, Donaldson had participated in nearly 200 solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the United States, the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and Europe.
He has served as the Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard University as well as the Vice President of the Board of Directors of The Barnes Foundation. Donaldson has written several critical essays throughout the years and served a prominent member on the Board of Directors of the National Center for Afro-American Artists.
Donaldson died at the age of 71 on February 29, 2004.