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Visual Arts

What were the crafts from black artists and craftspeople of the eighteenth century?

There were many talented black artists and craftspeople in the eighteenth century who failed to achieve historical recognition. Records indicate that skilled blacks interested in buying their freedom worked as painters, silversmiths, cabinet and coach makers, ornamentalists, and shipwrights. One of them was Eugene Warburg, a black sculptor from New Orleans, who became well known for his ornamental gravestones and eventually went to study in Europe. Another, William Day, a celebrated carpenter who owned slaves in his shop, has gained recognition for his interior design as well as his furniture.

Much of the colonial ironwork and metalwork on eighteenth-century mansions, churches, and public buildings was created and executed by blacks, and occasionally reached heights that can be classified as fine art. The artists and artisans, however, remain unknown.


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