“Roy DeCarava is a giant of American art photography. His practice, spanning six decades of American history, recorded aspects of African American life and culture over decades of drastic change … His photographs are less a record and more a collection of poetically composed glimpses of genuine human experiences.”
On December 9, 1919, a baby boy was born at Harlem Hospital to Elfreda Ferguson; she named him Roy Rudolph and his last name was DeCarava. Newly arrived to New York from her home country of Jamaica, she was only seventeen years old. Alone, she reared Roy, who never knew his father. Elfreda worked very hard to support herself and her son, even taking on other opportunities to pay for his music lessons and interest in art. From the early age of five years old, he knew he wanted to be an artist. An activity in which his mother often engaged was photographing her friends and neighbors in the Harlem community. This would be an incredible influence on his life, most notably, his love for Black people in the famous neighborhood of the Manhattan borough in New York City.
Roy DeCarava came of age during the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural explosion created and curated by Black artists, authors, educators, entertainers and writers. Dedicated to his art interests, he attend the annex of the 18th Street Textile High School that was located uptown near his home. He later transferred to its main campus midtown, where he was only one of two Black students in the revered school.