Porter was born in Baltimore, Maryland, forty years after slavery was officially abolished in the United States. The year of his birth, 1905, represents a critical time in the cultural history of African Americans. An acknowledged revolution in modern art was underway. It had been inspired almost entirely by the exposure of Western artists to the powerful forms of sculpture from Africa that were beginning to be seen in European capitals, particularly in Paris. The dynamic expression that was observed in African art helped change the surface and styles of modern art forever. Cubism would be born of such geometric observation, and Expressionism, as a style, particularly in Germany, would be greatly influenced by the abstract qualities of African art.

     In America, the Niagara Movement, founded by W.E.B. DuBois in 1905, paved the way for the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which highlighted an agenda set on obtaining justice for people of color throughout the nation. A more militant mindset emerged in the decade of Porterís birth that allowed Blacks and whites the chance to see themselves as allies against racism, anti-semitism, and sexism. Politics and cultural definition were the subjects of conversation among Black intellectuals in the decade in which Porter was born, the eve of World War I. Porter became keenly aware of the cultural plight of African Americans at an early age. He was born into a family in which everyone was expected to pursue a respectable profession. His mother, Lydia Peck Porter, was a teacher. His father John Porter, was a Methodist minister and a



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February 2001