National Institute on Aging

In Memoriam: David Clyde Driskell, 1931-2020

David Driskell, the renowned artist, art historian, and educator, has died in a hospital in Maryland from complications of the COVID-19 virus. He was 88 years old.

A native of Eatonton, Georgia, Driskell grew up in North Carolina. He went to Howard University in Washington, D.C., with the intent to study history but switched his major to art.

After graduating from college, Driskell taught art at Talladega College in Alabama. There he painted what is probably his most famous work – Behold Thy Son – a work portraying the beaten corpse of Emmett Till, the Chicago teenager who was murdered in Money, Mississippi, in the summer of 1955. The painting is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.

Driskell later joined the faculty at Howard University and Fisk University in Nashville. In 1962, he added a master of fine arts degree to his resume from the Catholic University of America.

In 1977, Driskell joined the faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park. He taught there until his retirement in 1998. In 2001, the university established the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora.


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