African American Highlights – Inventories of American Painting & Sculpture

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s research databases -- the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture -- provide descriptive data on over 350,000 art works, done by artists born or working in this country. This is a small sampling of works listed in the Inventories which pertain to African Americans and African American history. Follow the links below and explore our nation’s rich collection of African American art.



Find depictions of African Americans in paintings:

Find works by these selected African American painters:

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)


Robert S. Duncanson (1821/22-1872)


Edward Mitchell Bannister (1821-1901


Joshua Johnson (ca. 1763-after 1826)


Charles Ethan Porter (1847/48-1923)

Other African American painters:

John James Audubon (1785-1851)

Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918)

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African American History

“I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you a thirst for education. I leave you a respect for the use of power. I leave you faith. I leave you a racial dignity. I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you finally, a responsibility to our young people.” -Mary McLeod Bethune

Civil Rights Movement

“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” –Martin Luther King, Jr.


Memorials to
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Other well-known African Americans:

Louis Armstrong

George Washington Carver

Frederick Douglass

Harriet Tubman

Booker T. Washington

Click here to see a list of all African American
painters and sculptors listed in the Inventories


Find depictions of African Americans in sculpture:

Sculptures with images

Find works by these selected African American sculptors:

Paintings with images

Richard Hunt (1935- )

Elizabeth Catlett (1919- )


Selma Burke (1900-1995)


Edmonia Lewis (1843/45-d. after 1911)

Other African American sculptors:

Richmond Barthe (1901-1989)

Nathaniel Choate (1899-1965)

William Edmondson (1870-1951)

Melvin Edwards (1937- )

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968)

Sargent Johnson (1887-1967)

Martin Puryear (1941- )

James W. Washington, Jr. (1911- )