Longtime art professor David Driskell died of coronavirus, UMD announces

The University of Maryland announced Saturday that longtime art professor David Driskell died Wednesday at the age of 88 due to complications from the coronavirus.

Driskell was a member of this university’s art department for 21 years, retiring in 1998. Throughout his career, he championed African American art, writing several books on the topic.

He was also an artist himself, and is known for a 1956 painting that depicted the mutilated body of Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old killed by two white men in Mississippi. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Driskell the National Humanities Medal.

A center at this university dedicated to the study of African American art and culture was named after Driskell in 2001.

“To many on campus, Professor Driskell was a beloved friend,” university President Wallace Loh wrote in a campuswide email. “He said that some of his happiest moments were with students.”

There will be a time to mourn and celebrate Driskell’s life once it is appropriate, according to a message on the Driskell center’s website.

“During these challenging times, it is difficult to mourn one individual,” the message read. “[B]ut we at the David C. Driskell are here to honor his legacy and continue his work of supporting and promoting African American artists.”

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