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Jeff Donaldson papers, 1918-2005, bulk 1960s-2005

Biographical Note

Jeff Donaldson (1932-2004) was an African American artist and educator who worked in Chicago and Washington, D.C. He was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s and promoted the "TransAfrican" aesthetic.
Donaldson was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a B.A. in studio art in 1954. He briefly served in the U.S. Army and taught art in a Chicago high school from 1957 to 1965. In 1963, he received his M.S. in Art Education from Illinois Institute of Technology, and taught at Northwestern University while pursuing his Ph.D. there. He received his Ph.D. in art history in 1974 with a dissertation on young African American artists working in Harlem during the 1930s. In 1970, Donaldson became director of the Howard University Art Gallery and chairman of the art department. From 1985 to 1998, he served first as associate dean and then dean of the Howard University, College of Fine Arts.
As a leading member of the Black Arts Movement, Donaldson co-founded the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) Visual Art Workshop which created the influential Wall of Respect mural in 1967 on the southside of Chicago. He also co-founded the AfriCOBRA artist collaborative in 1968 of which he was a lifelong member. Donaldson promoted the TransAfrican art aesthetic through his leadership role in FESTAC, the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, held in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. He was guest editor for a TransAfrican focused issue of the International Review of African American Art which coincided with the TransAfrican Art Invitation Exhibition he curated at the Orlando Museum of Art in 1997.
Donaldson also worked as a professional painter, exhibiting in over a hundred and fifty group and solo exhibitions, and wrote critical essays for several arts publications. He regularly served as an exhibition juror, conference presenter, and served on advisory committees and as a board member for many arts and African American organizations.