Harlem Hellfighters

PHILADELPHIA — Horace Pippin (1888–1946) was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, less than 25 years after the Civil War ended. He grew up in the village of Goshen, New York, 50 miles northwest of Manhattan, and attended segregated schools. For this reason, the seemingly neutral description of Pippin as a self-taught artist should be seen through the lens of America’s policy of segregation and government-maintained racial discrimination. The chances of Pippin attending a White-run art school were practically nonexistent during his lifetime. He was self-taught out of necessity, as the society in which he lived had shut most of its doors on him.Before Pippin enlisted in the segregated Black and Puerto Rican 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed by the Germans the “Harlem Hellfighters,” he worked in a coal yard, as a hotel porter, and as a used-clothing peddler.

READ: Seeing American History Through the Art of a Black WWI Soldier

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