Black Design Featured Profiles

Featured Jean Boone (b. 1943)

Advertising executive, newspaper publisher, and cofounder of the Richmond Free Press

Category: community outreach

Jean Boone moved to Baltimore in 1977 when her husband, the late Raymond Boone, Sr., was appointed vice president of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper. Having earned her M.S. in social work from Boston University in 1966, and with a wealth of experience in the nonprofit sector, Boone began working for an organization called Baltimore Blueprint. The organization was, in her words, “designed to look at policies at the city level that were affected by the state and federal governments.” Where there was a disconnect between policy and on-the-ground realities, Baltimore Blueprint stepped in to recommend changes. The organization’s wide-ranging work covered “housing, social services, juvenile services, education, and the like.” One example Boone recalls in her HistoryMakers interview dealt with the federal National School Lunch Program and its application in city schools. Baltimore Blueprint saw that students who needed the program were a possible target of stigma. So rather than have everyone’s lunch status be publicly identified, the organization created a student card-reading system that conveyed the relevant information discreetly. “Simple kind of thing you may say,” she remembers, “but important to the whole process of students feeling equal.”

Reference: Jean Boone (The HistoryMakers A2016.145), interviewed by Larry Crowe, December 9, 2016, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 7.



FeaturedFannie Lee Brown (b. 1954)

Education administrator and nonprofit executive

Category: drafting

Though best known for her work in the nonprofit sector in her adopted hometown of Akron, Ohio, Fannie Lee Brown was, for a time, an accomplished drafter. She got into technical drawing by a twist of fate. Brown made the cheerleading squad in high school. Under normal circumstances, she would have had to attend North High School. But she really wanted to cheer for Central-Howard High School, and the only way she could do that was to take up a trade. She chose drafting and excelled at it. So much so, in fact, that after graduation Brown secured an apprenticeship with the Babcock & Wilcox Company in Barberton, Ohio. Brown went through the drafting program there, logging more than 3,000 hours of apprenticeship work, until she was able to secure her journeyman license. In eleven years with Babcock & Wilcox, Brown went from creating basic drawings using “pencils and paper [and] vellum” to helping the company create a computerized database for its thousands of assembly items (nuts, bolts, screws, and the like). Though not drafting, the job of bringing the company into the computer age capitalized on Brown’s technical know-how, and she became “a number expert” with regard to assembly parts. She was so integral to the modernization effort, in fact, that Brown traveled all over the country teaching other employees about the new system. In yet another twist of fate, the experience of standing “in front of the classroom teaching people something that was valuable and useful” was so meaningful to Brown that she decided to leave her job and go back to school to earn her college degree. She would eventually earn her Ph.D. in Secondary Education and work in the Akron public school system in the mid-1990s.

Reference: Fannie Lee Brown (The HistoryMakers A2005.069), interviewed by Regennia Williams, March 17, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 6, 7.



Robert “Buck” BrownRobert “Buck” Brown (1936-2007)

Artist, illustrator, and cartoonist

Category: illustration, cartooning

Though many readers didn’t know it, African American artist and illustrator Buck Brown was behind one of Playboy’s most popular cartoon series in the 1960s. While serving in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s, Brown would pin up cartoons he did of his commanding officer for the other servicemen’s delight. He received an honorable discharge from the military to pursue his studies at Wilson Junior College in Chicago. Though he still enjoyed drawing, opportunities to do it professionally always seemed to elude him. Then, while driving a bus for the Chicago Transit Authority, Brown decided to send eight cartoons to the top men’s magazine in the country, which happened to be headquartered in the city. Playboy accepted one cartoon, of a young boy “imitating” Miles Davis on a trumpet, and from there Brown became one of Hugh M. Hefner’s go-to cartoonists. His most enduring creation was a cartoon featuring “Granny,” an older white woman who alternately skewered and advanced the contemporary movement for sexual liberation. Yet even though Granny was white, her origins lay in a phrase Brown had heard on black radio. While listening to radio personality Bill “Doc” Lee on Chicago’s WBBM, Brown heard the gospel DJ use the down-home phrase “egg money.” He incorporated the phrase into his first Granny cartoon, and it struck a chord with Playboy owner Hefner, who was familiar with farming lingo from his Nebraska parents. Brown would go on to sell hundreds of cartoons to the magazine over his long career.

Reference: Robert "Buck" Brown (The HistoryMakers A2007.022), interviewed by Larry Crowe, January 20, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 8, and tape 5, story 5.



Allan Rohan Crite (1910-2007)Allan Rohan Crite (1910-2007)

Artist, illustrator, and draftsman

Category: drafting, illustration

Allan Rohan Crite was educated at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston before being hired by the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration. From that experience, Crite became known for rendering ordinary black life in exquisite detail, and he would go on to enjoy a decades-long career in art, illustration, and design. The backdrop to Crite’s early success was his work as a draftsman for the U.S. Naval Yard in Boston. Recognized for his technical precision, Crite was asked to do “perspective drawing of the [ship] engines”; over time, he became so well-known that “when the engineers had an idea, they'd turn to [him].” While drafting for the Navy, Crite pursued his own projects, including illustrating the book Three Spirituals from Heaven to Earth, published by Harvard University Press in 1948. For this work, Crite illustrated scenes excerpted from African American spirituals. But rather than use generic white figures, Crite made it a point to depict both sacred and human figures as black. This caused a stir among some white readers, but as Crite says in his HistoryMakers interview, there’s a long tradition of black religious iconography, especially in Ethiopia, where “Christ looked like an Ethiopian.” Crite developed that strain in his art over the next several decades, illustrating Christian figures in black people’s image.

Reference: Allan Crite (The HistoryMakers A2001.018), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, February 12, 2001, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 5, 1.



FeaturedLafayette Frederick (b. 1923)

Botanist and professor

Category: drafting

Before he embarked on his work as a botanist and longtime faculty member and administrator at Howard University, Lafayette Frederick was a trailblazing draftsman for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Having graduated from Tuskegee with a degree in biology in 1943, Frederick moved to Washington state where he and several classmates sought out work on an agricultural deferment. When seasonal work on a turkey farm ended, Frederick applied for a draftsman position in a nearby shipyard. He got the job and learned how to do the painstaking technical drawings associated with electrical engineering. After being drafted in 1944, Frederick was stationed at Kaneohe Naval Air Base in Hawaii, where he wanted to continue his work in drafting. At the time, the Armed Services was still officially segregated, and black servicemen’s duties on the base were primarily confined to “garbage detail.” Even though he had earned a position in the engineering branch, Frederick’s superiors initially sent him to that detail, where they thought he belonged. Finally, he was allowed to make his way to the correct area, and, as he recalls in his HistoryMakers interview, “all the work stopped, everybody stopped because they could not believe that a person that looked like me was being considered to join the engineering room staff as a draftsman.” In time, Frederick proved himself an expert draftsman not only in engineering but in architecture, as one of his assignments was to draw up plans a “building down on the landing mat” on aircraft carriers.

Reference: Lafayette Frederick (The HistoryMakers A2012.255), interviewed by Larry Crowe, December 15, 2012, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 3, 6, 7.



FeaturedPerry Howard (b. 1952)

Landscape architect and professor

Category: landscape architecture

A former president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Perry Howard was a longtime professor and director of the landscape architecture program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University in Greensboro. Perry was born in rural Morganza, Louisiana, and grew up and went to school in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. After high school, Perry enrolled at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The school’s standout program in landscape architecture appealed to him, and he earned his degree in the subject in 1973. A summer internship with Edward Durell Stone, Jr. and Associates in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, turned into his first full-time position post-graduation. In his HistoryMakers interview, Howard relates an anecdote about how he helped solve a particularly thorny development issue for the architect of the famed Atlantic Condominium in Miami. The city would not let the project proceed because it threatened to destroy a grove of banyan trees around the site. Howard was called in as part of the team to try to come up with a solution. Within a few minutes of approaching the site, Howard speculated that integrating the parking lot into the grove would both save the trees and give residents a pleasant scene to drive up to. This solution satisfied the city and the architect, and the project was allowed to proceed. The condominium was completed in 1982, and its distinctive look can be seen in the opening credits of the hit TV show Miami Vice.

Reference: Perry Howard (The HistoryMakers A2012.038), interviewed by Larry Crowe, February 23, 2012, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 2.