BHM Spotlight: Charles Dawson (1889-1981)
Hello again, I hope this month of February has gone well for you as it comes to a close. To continue Black History Month, I wanted to refresh and update my knowledge, and your knowledge of Africans of the diaspora who've contributed to the graphic design world. This blog is dedicated to the graphic designer Charles Dawson.
"Best known for his illustrated advertisements, Charles Dawson (Charles Clarence Dawson) was an influential Chicago designer and artist through the 1920s and 30’s. He also created art in the spaces of printmaking and painting.
He was born in 1889 in Georgia and later went on to attend Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. After two years there, he left and he became the first African American to be admitted into the Arts Students League of New York. Dawson abandoned the pervasive racism of the league when he later gained acceptance to the Art Institute of Chicago where, in his own words, their attitude was “entirely free of bias.” During his time there, Dawson was heavily involved, but then continued to make great strides becoming a founding member of the first black artists collective in Chicago: The Arts & Letters Collective.
Charles Dawson (back row, fourth from left) and class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, c. 1916.
After his graduation, he went on to serve in the segregated forces of WWI where he faced combat in France. He returned to find a newly changed Chicago; a Chicago racially charged due to a slowed economy and difficulty finding jobs. In 1922, Dawson began freelancing, producing work for other black entrepreneurs. A mere five years later, Dawson played a major role in the first exhibition of African American art at his alma mater called Negro In Art Week.
Later in life, Dawson returned to Tuskegee where he became a curator for the institute’s museum and passed away at the ripe old age of 93 in Pennsylvania. For his great contributions to African American art, design, and advancement, Dawson will always be remembered."
I hope you are fascinated with the legacy, story and footprint of Charles Dawson. I couldn't not share his story.