September 22


September 22, 1891 Alma Woodsey Thomas, painter and art educator, was born in Columbus, Georgia. Thomas earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Howard University in 1924, becoming the first graduate of the program. In 1934, she became the first African American woman to earn her Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University. She was also the first African American woman to have a solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art. After 35 years of teaching in the Washington, D.C. Public School System, Thomas retired in 1960 but continued to offer her weekly art classes to children from Washington’s poorest neighborhoods. Thomas died February 24, 1978. The Columbus Museum and the Smithsonian American Art Museum hold important collections of Thomas’ paintings and papers. “A Life in Art: Alma Thomas 1891 – 1978” was published in 1981 and “Alma W. Thomas: A Retrospective of the Paintings” was published in 1998.


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