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Spelman College

An American Odyssey

The Life and Work of Romare Bearden

Start of QuoteThrough her long association with Romare Bearden and his work, Mary Schmidt Campbell possesses a rare understanding of his life and artistry. In this beautifully written volume, she sensitively illuminates his biography and comprehensively traces the trajectory of his career. By brilliantly interweaving the political history of African Americans throughout the 20th century with the emergence of one our foremost artists, sheEnd of Quote has written a book that speaks to anyone who is interested in American history, art, and culture. —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

An American Odyssey by Mary Schmidt Campbell

    Published: September 5, 2018

In the News

Author's Bio

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.

President Mary Schmidt CampbellMary Schmidt Campbell is President of Spelman College and Dean Emerita of the Tisch School of the Arts. She served as the vice chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities under former President Barack Obama.

Press Release

Romare Bearden’s life intersected squarely with the battle over representation of black experience in America. He spent his childhood at the heart of the New Negro Movement in New York City. He began his career as a cartoonist during his college years, and in the later 1930s, turned to painting and joined a community of artists supported by the WPA. As Bearden’s reputation grew he perfected his skills, studying the European masters and finding new ways of applying them to the America he knew, one in which the struggle for civil rights became...


“[Campbell] authoritatively conveys the complexity of Bearden’s struggles as a Black artist who both aggressively supported his Black colleagues in Harlem-based exhibitions and believed that the universality of artistic vision must move beyond any single community to be most effective. It is an exhilarating and instructive read.”—Ruth Fine, Curator


“Meticulously researched and highly readable, this ground-breaking analytical biography of one of the twentieth century’s leading figures in painting, collage and other art forms is an immensely important addition to recent art historical literature and biography. It is a pleasure to read and is a necessary addition to our American cultural consciousness.”

Edward J. Sullivan, Helen Gould Sheppard Professor of the History of Art, Institute of Fine Arts (Deputy Director), New York University

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