Art and Design as Professional Practice

By 1937, during the tumult of the Great Depression, Russell Jones shifted her design work to focus on her interests and commitments to political questions and concerns for black life in the United States.

She served one year as Assistant Supervisor of the African and American Project of the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) before moving on to starting her own African American educational poster and lecture project on Democracy and Americanism called “Teacher’s Art Service.” Her project established an extended network of educators, schools, libraries, and organizations in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and towns throughout Delaware.


Strive for True Womanhood

Issues of representation for women, especially black women, moved beyond mere gestures of visibility and passive recognition as the real balance of democratic power within the republic was immutably reoriented when three-fourths of the states ratified the 19th Amendment in August of 1920. The Pennsylvania State Legislature’s ratification of the Constitutional amendment took place on June 24, 1919 as a resolution to the demand for the vote. In Philadelphia, women had long maintained traditions of electing to act and decide, whether collectively or independently, according to workings of their own faculties. Anna Russell Jones, even as she pursued her own individual path, moved critically within this current as news concerning national politics just as much as local achievements were being debated and covered in the pages of papers in circulation.

Huewayne Watson
Excerpt from “Anna Russell Jones and Archives of African American Art”

First WAAC

On September 17, 1942 Anna Russell Jones became the first African American Woman from Philadelphia to enlist in the United States Army, serving in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) as a Port Artist at Fort Huachuca, Arizona where she did work in blue printing, cartography, lettering, illustrations, and portraits.

Anna Russell Jones, DFA – Doctor of Fine Arts

Anna Russell Jones returned to Philadelphia where in 1957 she became a licensed practical nurse under the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and worked at Hahnemann University Hospital until retirement, maintaining her own studio practice in art and design well into her later years. She was awarded the Honor of Excellence from the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, now the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and the honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Moore College of Art and Design in 1987. Anna Russell Jones passed away in 1995.