William Henry Johnson (1901 - 1970) was an African-American artist born in South Carolina. He began his career as a student at the National Academy of Design in New York City, where he worked closely with Charles Webster Hawthorne. Johnson lived in Paris where he experienced French Expressionism and returned in the United States in the late 1920s. Johnson worked and lived in Scandanavia with his wife and experienced folk art. After returned in the United States in the late 1930s, Johnson found work at the Harlem Community Art Center in Harlem, New York City, New York where he worked as an art teacher as part of the Federal Art Project and Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1956, Johnson’s life’s work was almost destroyed when his guardian declared him unable to pay for storage. Instead, Helen Harriton, Mary Beattie Brady, and others arranged with the court to have Johnson’s belongings delivered to the Harmon Foundation - the foundation would use the works to advance interracial understanding and support African American achievements in the fine arts.
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