In Memoriam: David C. Driskell

David DriskellDavid C. Driskell (B.A. ’55) devoted himself to preserving the rich heritage of African-American visual art and culture. His contributions as an artist, scholar and curator laid the groundwork for the study of African-American art history. He is viewed as one of the primary people responsible for bringing African-Americans into the mainstream of American art.

David Driskell joined the Howard family as an undergraduate and later returned in 1962 as part of Howard’s faculty for four years. In 2010, he received an honorary doctoral degree.

Dr. Driskell taught at various universities in the U.S. and in Nigeria. He joined the Department of Art at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1977 and served as chair from 1978 to 1983. In 2001, the University of Maryland established the David C. Driskell Center in his honor.

Dr. Driskell lectured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others, and curated numerous other exhibitions. In 1976, he curated the landmark exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950.”

An avid collector of African-American art and artifacts dating from the era of slave ships to modern times, his own collection also toured as an exhibition, “Narratives of African-American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection.”

He was the recipient of numerous fellowships, awards and prizes, including three Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships and a Harmon Foundation Fellowship.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton selected Dr. Driskell as a recipient of the National Humanities Medal. He was also asked by President and Mrs. Clinton to choose artwork for the White House.

Speaking at the time, he emphasized his reverence for the past. “The humanities for me are the basis for the whole learning experience. They inform us so much about the past,” he said.

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