Porter Collection consists of artwork, clothing and dress, clothing accessories, and furniture which belonged to James A. Porter, Dorothy Porter Wesley, or Charles H. Wesley during the 20th century.
Created by James A. Porter, the twenty paintings, drawings, and lithographs include a silhouette of Dorothy Porter Wesley, a small crowd watching Marian Anderson sing at the Lincoln Memorial, a couple at a café, women and children, outdoor marketplace, a tribute to the YMCA, a murder on a highway, gestural figure drawings, butterflies, holiday card sketch, and the Howard University Centennial Seal for a 1967 poster. Approximately half of the works are photographs of the originals, and most date from the 1920s and 1930s. The butterflies are circa 1945, and a drawing created after Porter’s trip to Mexico, which included a meeting Diego Riveria, during the summer of 1961. The collection also includes an abstract painting by Judith Weinbaum.
The fur coat, dresses, skirts, dress gloves, hats, belts, scarves, and handbags, including a few with separate handles, belonged to Dorothy Porter Wesley. The collection also includes an Alpha Phi Alpha cap, a Sigma Pi Phi cloth bag, and several pieces of academic dress, including commencement hoods. One of the vestments, which belonged to Dorothy, has a notation “Radcliffe 1990.”
The fourteen pieces of furniture include a secretarial desk, a sofa, an end table, a cedar chest, and dining room table and chairs. One of the chairs is noted to have belonged to Charles H. Wesley; the remainder are noted to have belonged to James A. Porter.
Porter, James A. (James Amos), 1905-1970
James A. Porter – a painter, educator, art historian, and writer – loved sketching and drawing faces of people, particularly those of his family. He also created book illustrations, Christmas cards, and drawings for murals and stained glass windows. In addition to his art work, Porter is known for teaching and writing about artists who have been invisible to mainstream America. He produced the first in-depth scholarship on African American art history; and wrote the famous article, Four Problems in the History of Negro Art, in 1942, and the classic art book, Modern Negro Art, in 1943.
On December 22, 1905, Porter was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to John Porter, a Methodist minister, and Lydia Peck, a schoolteacher. The youngest of seven siblings, he attended the public schools in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and graduated cum laude from Howard University in 1927 with a Bachelor of Science in Art. Upon graduation, Porter was hired as an instructor of drawing and painting in Howard University’s art department. During the summers of 1927 and 1928, he attended art education, jewelry, and ceramics courses at Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1929, he studied at the Art Students League of New York under Dimitri Romanovsky and George Bridgeman, from whom Porter learned the mastery of figure drawing, and won the Arthur Schomburg Portrait Prize for the painting Woman Holding a Jug at the Harmon Foundation Exhibition of Negro Artists. On December 27, 1929, he married Dorothy Louise Burnett of Montclair, New Jersey; they had one daughter, Constance.
In 1937, Porter received a Master of Arts in Art History from New York University. In 1953, he was appointed Head of the Department of Art and Director of the Art Gallery at Howard University. Porter traveled extensively throughout Europe, Cuba, Haiti, West Africa, and Egypt studying European painting, Latin-American art, African art, and architecture. One of his trips included meeting Diego Riveria in San Miguel d’ Allende, Mexico during the summer of 1961. In 1965, Porter received first National Gallery of Art Medals and Honoraria for Distinguished Achievement in Art Education with twenty-six other teachers. On February 28, 1970, he died for cancer in Washington, D.C.
Porter’s works are in major museums throughout the world, including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Howard University Gallery of Art, the Carl Van Vechten Gallery of Art at Fisk University, the Barnett Aden Collection, and the Embassy of Nigeria, Lagos. His work has exhibited with the Harmon Foundation; and at Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, UCLA Art Galleries, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Brooklyn Museum among others.
Dorothy Porter Wesley, 1905-1995
When she completed her studies in 1932, Dorothy Porter Wesley, born Dorothy Louise Burnett, was the first African American woman to receive a Master of Science in Library Science degree from Columbia University. She devoted her life as librarian, historian, archivist, curator, and writer of African American cultural heritage.
On May 25, 1905, Dorothy was born to Hayes Joseph Burnett, a physician, and Bertha Ball Burnett, a tennis champion, in Warrenton, Virginia. She was raised in Montclair, New Jersey and graduated from Montclair High School. Upon graduating from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1928, she joined the library staff at Howard University. In 1930, Dorothy organized and developed the Library of Negro Life and History from a small collection of three thousand titles which grew to nearly 200,000 items by her retirement in 1973 when the collection became known as the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, and Dorothy became curator emeritus. The collection includes documents from black history and literature, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian and Latin America heritages, abolitionist history and the history of slavery.
Dorothy participated in many fellowships including the Julius Rosenwald Scholarship from 1931-32 and the Fellowship for Research in Latin American Literature from 1944-45. In 1957, she received a certificate in archival preservation and administration from American University. The Ford Foundation sent her to Lagos, Nigeria from 1962-64 to build the collection at the National Library of Nigeria. From 1988-89, she was a Ford Foundation ‘Visiting Senior Scholar’ at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University.
Dorothy has received many awards and honors including honorary degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Susquehanna (1971), Syracuse University (1989), and Radcliffe College (1990). From Howard University, the dedication of the Dorothy Porter Room in Founders Library (1973), Alumni Achievement Award (1974), and the establishment of the Dorothy Porter Wesley Lecture Series (1989). Additionally, in 1994, she was one of the recipients of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities for outstanding contributions to the nation’s cultural life presented by President Clinton.
Dorothy’s most notable publications include Early Negro Writing, 1760-1837, North American Negro Biography, and Afro-Braziliana: a Working Bibliography.
Dorothy was married to James A. Porter from 1929 until his death in 1970; they had one daughter, Constance. And she was married to Charles Harris Wesley until his death in 1987. Dorothy died on December 17, 1995 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Uzelac, Constance Porter
Constance Porter Uzelac, a medical librarian and historical researcher, was born to James A. Porter and Dorothy Porter (later Wesley) on August 22, 1939 in Washington, D.C. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University and Master of Library Science degree from Catholic University.
Constance served as the Executive Director of Dorothy Porter Wesley Research Center, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She devoted her life to the care and management of her family’s collection. About 2009, the papers of her three parents were placed at auction. Her mother’s papers are at Yale University, her father’s papers are at Emory University, and her stepfather’s papers were acquired by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in 2011. Constance was also the donor of the Porter Collection, which is located at the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Community Museum.
Constance was married to Milan Uzelac for forty-seven years. After a long battle with cancer, she died on April 23, 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Wesley, Charles H. (Charles Harris), 1891-1987
On December 2, 1891, Charles H. Wesley – historian, educator, and minister – was born to Charles Snowden Wesley, an undertaker, and Matilda Harris, a seamstress and later a secretary in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in history from Fisk University in 1911, Wesley continued his education earning a master's degree from Yale University in 1913. While a student at Yale, he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In 1925, he received a doctoral degree from Harvard University, becoming the third African American doctoral graduate from Harvard.
In 1928, Wesley earned a Doctor of Divinity degree from Wilberforce University. As an ordained minister, he presided over all the African Methodist Episcopal churches in Washington, D.C. from 1918-1938. Wesley also held positions as the dean of the Liberal Arts College and Dean of the Liberal Arts Graduate School at Howard University, the president of Wilberforce University, the national General President of the Alpha Phi Alpha, the founder and president of the Central State University, the director of research and publications for the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and the director of the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Additionally, he is the author of twelve books including the first edition of the history of Alpha Phi Alpha, Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom, The Story of the Negro Retold, and the International Library of Negro Life and History.
Wesley was married to Louise Johnson from 1915 until her death in 1973. The couple had two children: Charlotte Wesley Holloman and Louise J. Wesley. In 1979, he married Dorothy Porter. On August 16, 1987, Wesley died in Washington, D.C.
A native of New York, Judith Weinbaum, an abstract painter, was born in 1895. Her work is known for abstraction, bold color and execution. Weinbaum painted for about 40 years, and her work was exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery, Howard University and the Baltimore Museum of Art. She had lived in the Washington, D.C. area for nearly 50 years.
In the 1920s, Weinbaum attended Hunter College and was an interior decorator at the B. Altman department store in New York City. While living in Baltimore before moving to the Washington, D.C. area, she taught painting at her home. In the 1950s, she acted in theaters in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. She also played the piano.
Her husband, Isidore Weinbaum, died in 1986. Weinbaum died on November 11, 1992 in Bethesda, Maryland.
Featherstone, Starmanda Bullock. 1992. "James Porter: the dual role of artist and historian". American Visions. 7: 26-30.
Findlay, James A., Constance Porter Uzelac, and Dorothy Porter Wesley. 2001. Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995), Afro-American librarian and bibliophile: an exhibition, February 1-March 16, 2001. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla: Bienes Center for the Literary Arts, Broward County Library.
Madison, Avril Johnson, and Dorothy Porter Wesley. 1995. "Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley: Enterprising Steward of Black Culture". The Public Historian. 17 (1): 15-40.
Porter, James A. 1969. Modern Negro art. New York: Arno Press.
Porter, James A. 1992. James A. Porter, artist and art historian: the memory of the legacy. [Washington, D.C.]: Howard University Gallery of Art.
Porter, James A. 1998. James Amos Porter (1905-1970): spotlight on his works on paper : drawings, sketches, vignettes, portraits, bookplates, illustrations, murals (including a stained glass window). Fort Lauderdale, FL: Wesport Foundation & Gallery.
Porter, James A., David Driskell, and Constance Porter Uzelac. 2006. James A. Porter, from me to you: the works of James A. Porter. New York: N'Namdi.
Sims-Wood, Janet L. 2014. Dorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University: building a legacy of Black history.
Willis, Deborah, Leslie King-Hammond, and Halima Taha. 1999. Locating the spirit: religion and spirituality in African American art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture.
Dorothy Porter Wesley collection, 1852-1995. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Broward County Library African-American Research Library and Cultural Center.
Dorothy Porter Wesley Papers. James Weldon Johnson Collection in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
James A. Porter papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.
African American artists
African American historians
African American librarians
Human beings in art
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum