James A. Porter created the foundation for the field of African American art history. After graduating from Howard University in 1927, he spent a decade studying both art and art history in Paris and New York City, and earned an MA from New York University in 1936. He then went on to teach at Howard, where he eventually served as chair of the art department and director of the art gallery.
Porter championed African American artists, including those from the Caribbean. His influential book Modern Negro Art (1943) was the first to place the contributions of African American artists in the context of the history of modernism, and Porter’s own art was exhibited at major institutions, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Here, he presents himself in his studio, in front of an image of Howard Hall, one of the oldest buildings on Howard’s campus.