Louise E. Jefferson (1908-2002) (after)
Africa: A Friendship Map
Friendship Press, Inc., New York: 1945
29.75 x 28 inches
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A rare pictorial map promoting peaceful relations with Africa, and promoting African self-determination, independence, and self-rule as the era of colonization was ending. Cartography is simple, showing major rivers, cities and tribal areas. The illustrations depict landscape features, animals, agriculture, industries, progressive institutions such as hospitals and research centers, and prominent individuals such as "Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ehtiopia" and "Mina Soga, World Christian."
An inscription on the Africa map bears an affirmative message that counters stereotypes of the African people as backward and unsophisticated that were common at the time:
There is hardly a type of responsible position in Africa today that is not being capably filled somewhere on the continent by an African. Africans build, repair, and pilot airplanes, service and operate automobiles, trucks, steam engines, electrical and radio installations. They are teachers, college professors, nurses, doctors, dentists, lawyers, clergymen, engineers and business men.
Louise E. Jefferson was an illustrator, art director, calligrapher, cartographer and photographer. During her long career, she produced a large body of work as an illustrator, graphic designer and photographer, both as a freelancer and as the art director of the Friendship Press, the publishing agent of the National Council of Churches, a post she held from 1942 to 1968. She may have been the first African-American woman to work as an art director in the publishing industry.
Jefferson was born in Washington, D.C. and moved to New York City to study art at Hunter College and Columbia University. There she came into contact with the artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1935 was a founding member of the Harlem Artist's Guild. Her first illustrated book, We Sing America (1936) created a stir when she depicted black and white children playing together; indeed, the book was banned by the governor of Georgia. Ironically, Jefferson later recounted that in her career as an artist, she personally encountered more sexism as a woman than racism as an African-American. Besides designing and illustrating books for publishers such as Viking and Doubleday, she produced numerous cultural pictorial maps for the Friendship Press emphasizing world cooperation and ethnic and racial tolerance, including Africa, China, and Native Americans in the United States. Jefferson frequently worked for African-American organizations, including the NAACP, for whom she designed holiday seals over a period of about 40 years. She also wrote and illustrated The Decorative Arts of Africa (1973), based on her travels in Africa during the previous decade, some of which were supported by grants from the Ford Foundation.
Full publication information: Published by Friendship Press, Inc., 156 Fifth Avenue, New York. Printed in the United States of America. Copyright, 1948, by Friendship Press, Inc.
"Extravagant Crowd: Louise E. Jefferson." Yale University Beinecke Library. http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/cvvpw/gallery/jefferson.html (25 October 2011).
Smith, Jessie Carney. Notable Black Women. pp. 328-330. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=ssMBzqrUpjwC (25 October 2011).