Avery Brown Bag Series: “I’ll Find a Way or Make One: Two Black Artists in 1920s Charleston,” Mae Whitlock Gentry, Journalist, Avery Research Center, Nov 13, 12-1:15 pm
Born in the late 1800s, just one generation out of slavery, an African-American couple – artist Edwin Augustus Harleston (1882-1931) and photographer Elise Forrest Harleston (1891-1970) – owned and operated a studio at 118 Calhoun Street in Charleston, South Carolina, throughout the 1920s. Edwin Harleston painted portraits, landscapes and images of the city’s iconic street vendors. Elise Harleston took photographs of paying clients and people whose faces she found interesting, including former slaves. Professionally trained and nationally celebrated, they were rendered invisible by Charleston’s power structure because of their race. They were also denied the opportunity to participate in the “whites-only” arts movement known as the Charleston Renaissance. In this presentation, Edwin and Elise’s great-niece, Mae Whitlock Gentry, will discuss and share images of the couple’s work, and she will talk about how Edwin Harleston was able to produce a series of Magnolia Gardens oil paintings in 1930, despite the fact that this tourism destination was off-limits to black visitors under Jim Crow segregation.
Mae Whitlock Gentry is the great-niece of Edwin and Elise Harleston. A retired journalist who spent most of her career as a writer and editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she has a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College and a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington, where she is working on a book about Edwin and Elise Harleston, drawing from their correspondence and images