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John Anansa Thomas Biggers

April 13, 1924 - January 25, 2001


Biggers was an African-American muralist during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Gastonia, North Carolina, his home became Houston and his murals can be found in many public buildings there. He was the founding chairman of the art department at what is now Texas Southern University, a traditionally Black school.

The Biggers family valued education. His father was a preacher, a school teacher, a shoemaker, and much more. When he passed away in 1937, Cora, his wife, worked extra jobs to make sure that the children were educated. Biggers planned to become a plumber, but a class with Viktor Lowenthal, a Jewish refugee, caused him to rethink his future. Besides traditional art education, he received his PhD from Pennsylvania State in 1954, he took classes with Charles White and Elizabeth Catlett and studied the murals of Mexican artists like Diego Rivera.

A fellowship from UNESCO allowed him to travel to African in 1957, he was one of the first African American artists to travel and study there. This, and subsequent trips, greatly influenced his later art.

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