Buried & Forgotten: Why Did This Groundbreaking Black Artist Disappear from Local History?

Ryan Patrick Hooper

There are 13 relatives buried in the Duncanson family plot at Historic Woodland Cemetery in Monroe, Michigan, but only two tombstones. Robert S. Duncanson will have a tombstone installed later this year after 146 years of waiting.

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Raised in Michigan, Robert S. Duncanson is considered the first famous African-American artist in the 19th century.

Duncanson grew up in Monroe the freeborn son of house painters and carpenters before moving to Cincinnati where a network of mainly white abolitionist supporters helped exhibit his work throughout the Midwest and abroad — an astonishing feat in antebellum America when many African-Americans were…

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