African American Museum in Philadelphia

Photograph courtesy of the African American Museum in Philadelphia

When the African American Museum in Philadelphia reopens Thursday after more than a year of pandemic shutdown, it will reintroduce Philadelphia and the world to Anna Russell Jones (1902-1995),an overlooked American artist with an extraordinary backstory.

Jones, a designer of textiles and graphics, “was an early-20th-century trailblazer,” said Ivan Henderson, vice president of programming at the AAMP. Among her many accomplishments, she is recognized as the first Black woman to graduate, in the mid-1920s, from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now the Moore College of Art and Design.

She would go on to a freelance career as an artist — a career almost unheard of for a Black woman in the early decades of the 20th century — and wartime service in the Women’s Army Corps, with advanced studies later at both Moore and Howard University. She lived most of her life here. The exhibit runs through Sept. 12.

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