Modern Negro Art By Baker, Marissa H.
Modern Negro Art by James A. Porter (1905–1970) is a ground-breaking historical study of African American art from slavery to the early 20th century. The first major text of its kind following Alain Locke’s The New Negro (1925), it was the main source of information on African American artists until comparable historical surveys were published in the 1970s. The book presents an overview of artists’ biographies with analysis of the style and subject matter of their work. The chapter “The New Negro Movement” lays out Porter’s main argument against Locke’s well-established racialist position. Locke advocated for the development of a “Negro art’ that would counter negative stereotypes and present a more appealing image of the New Negro to American society. Countering Locke, Porter argued that seeking to “exploit the ‘racial concept’” limited the potential expression of African American artists. Instead he advocated for a treatment of African American art as already integral to the history of American art. Rejecting Locke’s emphasis on an African ancestral heritage, Porter demonstrated the historical development of African American art in North America from slavery to the early 20th century. His research and thorough attention to overlooked African American artists remain the book’s most vital contributions to the field of art history, and accounts for the book’s continuing impact.