Bob Gumbs was born in Harlem, New York on March 15, 1939. Raised in the Morrisania section of the South Bronx, he graduated from City Tech with a degree in Advertising Design. Bob also studied Graphic Design, Painting and Documentary Film Making at the School of Visual Arts, the Art Students League, New York University and the New School. From the mid 1960s to the 1980s, he worked as a Book and Graphic Designer for several major New York City publishers.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Bob co-published a series of books on African hairstyles and fashions: Accent African Traditional and Contemporary Hairstyles for the Black Woman and Accent African Fashions. In 1985, Bob was the co-founder of Gumbs & Thomas Publishers. Gumbs & Thomas published a series of books on the annual African-American cultural celebration of Kwanzaa and Harlem, New York. In 1998, Bob and his wife Ida co-authored How to Plan a Kwanzaa Celebration: Ideas for Family, Community and Culture.
Bob designed a series of commemorative coins to honor several notable African-American men and women: Sgt. Cornelious H. Charlton, Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller, MaryMcLeod Bethune, Harriet Tubman, Thelonious Monk, the Montford Point Marines, the Black Panthers and South Africa’s first Black President Nelson Mandela.
Bob’s art has be featured in a number of solo and group exhibitions in New York City. Two of his drawings of Thelonious Monk were featured in an art exhibition to honor the legendary jazz pianist and composer.
Bob is the co-editor of Before the Fires: An Oral History of African-American Life in the Bronx from the 1930s to the 1960s.
“Lady in Gold”
In 2015, I created a color silhouette titled “Lady in Gold” to show the aesthetic beauty of the Black woman. As a Black artist involved in the “Black is Beautiful” movement beginning in the 1960s, I became aware that many Black women were ashamed of their dark skin and hair because they were judged by Eurocentric/white beauty standards. The great Black Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey said “The Black skin is not a badge of shame but rather a glorious symbol of natural greatness”. Today more Black women around the world are embracing their natural beauty.
“There’s a period of life when we swallow a knowledge of ourselves and it becomes either good or sour inside.” — Pearl Bailey, 1968