Delilah W. Pierce and Alma Thomas were professional peers and friends. According to the Smithsonian Institutes Archives of American Art their relationship was captured in the Alma Thomas papers, 1894-2001, in her Little Paris Group, 1948. The Little Paris Group, as described in the archives:
In the December 19, 1936 Afro American an announcement was published highlighting the marriage of Delilah with Joseph L. Pierce. This was 1930’s African American society at its best. The wedding was performed by the Reverend Walter H. Brooks who was a religious scholar and at the time pastor of the Nineteenth Baptist Church, the first African American Baptist church of Washington, DC.
Reporter Louis Lautier, who, according the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, is known for being an advocate who successfully achieved integrating the Senate and House press galleries in 1947. Mr. Lautier covered the life of Delilah W. Pierce and highlighted her in his Afro American newspaper Capital Spotlight column. At the time Mr. Lautier was working as a freelance journalist. Mr. Lautier referred to Delilah W. Pierce as a “schoolmarm” when he announced her marriage to Joseph L. Pierce. He also followed her work as the president and delegate of the Phi Delta Kappa sorority. Louis Lautier was also the first African American admitted to the National Press Club.
Click image thumbnails below to review his 1936 & 1947 articles:
Delilah W. Pierce not only helped to expand black identity perceptions during her life and career as an artist, curator, educator and advocate, she helped break down the vicious barriers of gender inequality within the visual arts community.
The role of black women in the development of the visual arts in America is a relatively new subject for research and museum exhibitions. Therefore, it was no small undertaking for Illinois State University to organize Forever Free, an exhibition of 118 works by forty-nine artists which features achievements in the visual arts by African-American women. The exhibition is a revelation and a challenge; because historians and critics until recently have overlooked art by women in general, art by black women has suffered a double bias. In response to this oversight, Forever Free is a historical overview of work in all media by black women artists from 1862 to 1980.
Delilah W. Pierce is mentioned in the African American Almanac, authored by Lean’tin Bracks. Reviewer Emily Rose Compton-Dzak wrote:
Bracks chronicles the African American experience from the arrival of the first Africans to North America in the early 1600s to the present day. The almanac is organized into 12 chapters: “Africans in America”; “Civil Rights”; “Politics”; “Education”; “Religion”; “Literature”; “Business Entrepreneurs/Media”; “Performing and Visual/Applied Arts”; “Music”; “Science, Technology, Inventors, and Explorers”; “Sports”; and “Military.” Each chapter includes an essay and a collection of “biographies of individuals who have made progress and positive change possible.” Black-and-white photographs and illustrations are found throughout.
In 1983 The Gallery published a book authored by historian and current Harvard University Adjunct Professor John Beardsley; color field painter and lyrical abstractionist Sam Gilliam and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The book covered modern painters at the Corcoran, which included African American art. In the book Sam Gilliam talks with great affection about Delilah W. Pierce, who exhibited regularly at Corcoran.
Jet Magazine always dedicated a section to activities within the African American community around the country. In 1975 their June edition promoted an exhibit held by Georgette Seabrooke Powell and the DC Art Association. Delilah W. Pierce was one of the exhibitors. This exhibition was held to show the diversity within the African American visual arts community.
Delilah W. Pierce helped expand the Black Arts Movement with her figurative and abstract paintings. Her art helped express the diversity within the black aesthetic, during a time where African Americans were exploring the idea of what it meant to be “BLACK” and how that related to the larger mainstream American culture. This was also a time of women fighting for equality.
The Black Arts Movement is often connected with the protests of the 1960’s. What many forget is the groundswell of black publishing houses, magazines journals and art institutions during the time and how the Black Arts Movement led to the creation of many African American studies programs in universities outside of historically black institutions.
In 2009, the Mint Museum of Art published, along with Lois Mailou Jones Pierre-Noel Trust and Carla M. Hanzal (authors) a historical review of Lois Mailou Jones’ life and artistic career. The book is connected with a traveling exhibition. In the book Ms. Jones talks about the 1960’s and how artists like Delilah W. Pierce and poet Maya Angelou were “pioneers in introducing the movement among [their] students.” Click to learn how you can read: Loïs Mailou Jones: a life in vibrant color.