The map was done by Louise E. Jefferson, a prominent African-American illustrator and designer for several decades in New York City. It is one of a series of maps of different places around the world published by the Friendship Press of the National Council of Churches. As Art Director of the Friendship Press, Jefferson illustrated many of the maps they published. These maps generally promote peace, tolerance and cooperation, with historical illustrations as well as illustrations relating to Christian institutions.
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.
Mary M. Lago was a professor, biographer and editor. After graduating from Bucknell University in 1940, she moved to New York and worked for the Friendship Press. In addition to this picture map of the United States, she also produced one of Mexico for the press in 1951. When her husband obtained a faculty position at the University of Missouri, they moved there. Eventually she enrolled in the graduate school, obtained her PhD in English literature and became a professor there. She wrote her dissertation on Modern Bengali literature and published scholarly biographies of Rabindrath Tagore, E.M. Forster, and other literary figures and artists of the Edwardian era. Her obituary in the British newspaper The Independent, acknowledged her “enormous contribution to English literary studies.”
Full publication information: Copyright, 1950, by Friendship Press, Inc. Printed in the United States of America. Friendship Press, Inc., 257 Fourth Avenue, New York 10, N.Y.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling, soft creases. Folds as issued, with associated fold creases.
“Extravagant Crowd: Louise E. Jefferson.” Yale University Beinecke Library. http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/cvvpw/gallery/jefferson.html (25 October 2011).
Skipwith, Peyton. “Professor Mary Lago.” The Independent. 27 February 2001. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/professor-mary-lago-728883.html (26 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).