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Dr. Harmon Kelley’s Legacy of Medicine and Art



Compassionate, nurturing, loyal, and kind were just many of the words spoken about Dr. Harmon Kelley at his funeral services on Feb. 1. He passed away on Jan. 26 from a heart attack at the age of 77.

Born in 1945 in Cameron, Texas, Dr. Kelley and his wife, Harriett, had a significant impact locally and nationwide. Dr. Kelley moved to San Antonio in the late 1970s during a time when the city had just a few African American doctors. In 1978, he founded Southeast OB-GYN Associates, P.A., where he practiced for 44 years, the past 20 years with Dr. Margaret Kelley, his daughter. Before that, Southeast San Antonio didn’t have a doctor in obstetrics-gynecology.

Over the years, the Kelleys’ interest in African American art grew and the couple founded the Harriett and Harmon Kelley Foundation for the Arts. A Texas Monthly article in 1996 said the Kelleys filled a void in the art world by increasing the value and influence of Black art, and museum curators to emissaries from foreign countries inquired about borrowing or buying from their collection.

Rich Aste, CEO/director of The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, said thanks to Dr. Kelley, McNay leaned even further into its mission of engaging absolutely every member of its diverse community in the discovery and enjoyment of the visual arts.

“From his leadership role as a McNay Trustee and Emeritus Trustee to his key role in the search for the Museum’s first Latino director, he was a champion for change,” Aste said. “His legacy of inclusivity, growth, and love will inform our work for generations.”

In 1995, the Kelleys collection became the first private African American art collection ever exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Aaronetta and Dr. Joseph A. Pierce Jr. also advocates for African American art, said, “Harriet and Harmon meticulously built one of the finest collections of great art by African Americans in the country. They advanced the respect and visibility of these artists immeasurably.”

As an alumnus of Prairie View A&M University and U.S. Army veteran, Dr. Kelley’s commitment to his practice and profession was evident in his numerous awards, including lifetime achievement awards. There’s even a charter school named after him – the Dr. Harmon W. Kelley Elementary School in San Antonio. In 2006, he was awarded The Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumni (ASDA) Award, the highest alum honor bestowed by the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine Alumni Association. The award recognizes outstanding service to the medical profession and humanity. Also in 2011, he received the Bexar County Medical Society’s highest honor, the Golden Aesculapius Award, which recognized his lifetime of distinguished service as a Bexar County Medical Society member to patients and the medical profession. This honor is only given on occasion.

In 2011, Dr. Kelley received the Southside Chamber of Commerce Legends Award to honor his commitment and service to San Antonio’s Southside.

Dr. Kelley’s achievements were a testament to what his patients already knew about him. Dr. Margaret Kelley said at the funeral she was “blown away” by how efficient her father was as a physician. She said even with his deep, baritone voice, he knew how to provide calm and solace to a soon-to-be mom in the labor room.

Likewise, Dr. Kelley was proud of his two daughters. He would tell his patients to call (Margaret) Dr. Kelley “because she deserved to be treated with the same respect.” After all, they both had the same credentials.
His other daughter, Jennifer Kelley, tearfully spoke about how her father would shower her with steaks. She joked that “most girls love flowers; I love steak.”

She also talked about how she and her father shared a love of music from listening to Earth, Wind & Fire, the Isley Brothers, Prince, Teddy Pendergrass, and more.

“We loved to turn the music way up in the car so we could hear the music and the bass,” Jennifer Kelley said. And Dr. Harmon Kelley was also a self-appointed English teacher. Dr. Margaret Kelley said with some of his younger patients, her father would kindly correct their grammar.

“When they say they ‘hurted,” he would tell them ‘hurted’ was not a word and it’s better to say you are hurting badly,” Dr. Margaret Kelley said.

San Antonio Express-News Columnist Cary Clack said Dr. (Harmon) Kelley has two great legacies. One is medical in that you have a Black OB-GYN open his practice on the Southeast side of San Antonio, providing a critical need, and he never left, staying there for 44 years until his death. “The other legacy, of course, is what he and Harriett did to curate, promote, and preserve the work of Black artists,” Clack added. “That a Black couple from San Antonio amassed the collection of Black art that they did is amazing.”


Harlem Renaissance – First African American Movement of International Modern Art



In February 2024, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present the groundbreaking exhibition The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism from Feb. 25-July 28, 2024, at The Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 999 in New York

Through some 160 works, it will explore the comprehensive ways in which Black artists portrayed everyday modern life in the new Black cities that took shape in the 1920s–40s in New York City’s Harlem and Chicago’s South Side and nationwide in the early decades of the Great Migration when millions of African Americans began to move away from the segregated rural South. The exhibition will establish the Harlem Renaissance as the first African–American–led movement of international modern art.

The Ford Foundation and Denise Littlefield Sobel provide major support for the exhibition. The Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, and The International Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art provide additional support.

Many of the paintings, sculptures, and works on paper come from the extensive collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

“This landmark exhibition reframes the Harlem Renaissance, cementing its place as the first African American–led movement of international modern art,” said Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and CEO. “Through compelling portraits, vibrant city scenes, and dynamic portrayals of nightlife created by leading artists of the time, the exhibition boldly underscores the movement’s pivotal role in shaping the portrayal of the modern Black subject—and indeed the very fabric of early 20th-century modern art.

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism will open with galleries that explore the cultural philosophy that gave shape to the New Negro movement of art and literature, a term defined and popularized by the movement’s founding philosopher, Howard University professor Alain Locke, in dialogue with W.E.B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson, and influential literary and music figures including Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and James Weldon Johnson. 

The Met has an extended history of collecting and displaying works by artists active during the Harlem Renaissance. In the 1940s, the Museum acquired several early works by gift from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), such as Jacob Lawrence’s Pool Parlor (1942). 

A fully illustrated scholarly catalog on the vibrant history of the Harlem Renaissance will accompany the exhibition. The Met will host various exhibition-related educational and public programs, to be announced later, while also pursuing community outreach and engagement initiatives. The exhibition is featured on The Met’s website at ( and on social media.

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Black Friday Live

Celebrating of Legacy of Frederick Douglass




By Sharon Michael-Chadwell, Ed.D.

What have we been told about Frederick Douglass? We know he escaped slavery, was an orator, and an author. However, Douglass’s life is a tapestry of difficulty, changing his identity for survival. A renowned public figure during the Reconstruction Period and Washington D.C. politics, he was the first African American nominated for U.S. vice president, a board member at Howard University, president of the Freedman’s Bank, and the most photographed American of the 19th century. On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a public speech, “What, To the Slaves, Is The Fourth of July,” about how African Americans are not truly free.

I became intrigued with knowing more about Douglass after visiting the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, also known as Cedar Hill – his estate in Washington D.C. overseeing the Capitol building.
Douglass was initially named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He never knew his parents except that his mother was Black and his father was white. He was born in February 1817 or 1818 in Maryland. Douglass, like many slaves, didn’t know his actual birthday; and, after becoming free, selected Valentine’s Day as the date. Douglass’s fiancé, a freed Black woman named Anna Murray, agreed to help him escape to New York. Murray met him there, and they married. Because he was a fugitive, the new couple selected the last name of Douglass. Many high society members recognized Douglass as a powerful orator, yet they could not believe he was a fugitive slave. Therefore, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was written to provide readers with an account of his life as a slave, including the names of plantations and other places of enslavement.

In 1877, Douglass purchased 10 acres of farmland and an estate. Known as Cedar Hill, it is a must-see tour when visiting D.C., even more than touring other monuments. The mansion is a representation of Victorian customs and Black privilege. Every room tells its own story. There are the bedrooms of Douglass and Anna Murray Douglass, which are connected to the nursery. Murray Douglass had five children with her husband, and died in 1882. His second wife, Helen Pitts, an activist and former abolitionist’s daughter, also has her own room in the house. Within the Victorian era, couples not only had their rooms; they had their beds. Douglass and Pitts’s marriage was controversial, given it being interracial and a 20-year age difference.

On the first floor, all the trappings of privilege become apparent. Cedar Hill had a kitchen in the house, which during this timeframe was uncommon. Near the kitchen are the laundry area and several curling irons of various sizes used to maintain the ruffles in his shirt collars. He collected chinaware, books, and other artifacts from around the world. Education was a critical factor in Douglass’s life; hence, he was open to providing opportunities for many to come by and educate themselves. The one object that caught my attention visiting the estate was seeing his copy of a German Antonius Stradivarius violin. He played that violin for his grandchildren when they visited Cedar Hill and other guests.
Outside his house, Douglass had a man cave known as the Growlery. This retreat had no windows; however, he had a desk with all the materials needed to write and study. It also had a fireplace as well as a couch.

Cedar Hill would not be here if it had not been for the activism of his late wife, Helen Pitts, who fought to protect the essence and historical being of Cedar Hill. Eventually, it became a protected heritage site and national park. Sitting in a predominately African American neighborhood called Anacostia, Douglass’s principles of activism, education, and community organization are still celebrated.

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