Richard J. Powell

John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History, in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences


114 Buchanan Blvd, Smith Warehouse, Bay 9, A287C, Durham, NC 27708


(919) 684-2473

Richard J. Powell is Dean of the Humanities and the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University, where he has taught since 1989.  He studied at Morehouse College and Howard University before earning his doctorate in art history at Yale University.  Along with teaching courses in American art, the arts of the African Diaspora, and contemporary visual studies, he has written extensively on topics ranging from primitivism to postmodernism, including such titles as Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (1991), Black Art: A Cultural History (1997 & 2002), and Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture (2008).


  • Ph.D. 1988, Yale University

  • M.Phil. 1984, Yale University

  • M.A. 1982, Yale University

  • M.F.A. 1977, Howard University

  • B.A. 1975, Morehouse College


  • "Herein Lie Buried Many Things: Screens, Entryways and Cabinets in Twentieth-Century Black Visual Discourse",
    Powell, RJ

  • African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond,
    Powell, RJ

  • Ras Ishi/Secret Diaries,
    Powell, RJ

  • "Unexpected Faces in Public Places",
    Powell, RJ

  • "The Systems and Semiotics of Ras Ishi Butcher",
    Powell, RJ

  • Who Am I in This Picture? Amherst College Portraits,
    Powell, RJ

  • Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture,
    Powell, RJ

  • Black Art: A Cultural History,
    Powell, RJ

  • To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities,
    Powell, RJ

  • Jacob Lawrence,
    Powell, RJ

  • Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson,
    Powell, RJ

  • From the Potomac to the Anacostia: Art and Ideology in the Washington Area,
    Powell, RJ

  • James Lesesne Wells: Sixty Years in Art,
    Powell, RJ


2013 Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly excellence in the Field of American Art History, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

2012 Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge Affiliated Faculty, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute

2012 Acadia Summer Art Program Residency, Mount Desert Island, ME, Fabric Workshop and Museum

2012 James A. Porter Award for Excellence in African American Art Scholarship, Howard University

2009 Wilbur Cross Medal for Distinguished Alumni, Yale University

2001 John Hope Franklin Center Faculty Residency Fellowship, Duke University

1995 Fellow, National Humanities Center

1992 Fellowships for University Teachers, National Endowment for the Humanities