Profile: Anna Russell Jones (1902-1995)

Anna Russell Jones was an African American artist known for her work in graphic, carpet, and textile design.


As the first African American woman to receive a four-year scholarship from the Philadelphia Board of Education and first African American graduate of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (PSDW), now Moore College of Art & Design, Anna Russell Jones’s educational achievements mark only the beginning of a life that not only challenged but also transcended the racial myths, stereotypes, and abject definitions of blackness and Black life that pervaded 20th century America.


After earning her degree in textile design at PSDW, Anna Russell Jones worked as a textile designer in Philadelphia. She opened her own studio and sold her carpet and wallpaper designs to firms in Philadelphia, New York and Canada in the 1920s and 1930s.

She was the first African American woman from Philadelphia to join the U.S. Army, serving as a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps), during World War II. Jones was stationed in Arizona, where she did graphic design work for Army publications and earned multiple awards.

After the war ended, Jones returned to Philadelphia for graduate work in textile work at PSDW, and subsequently studied medical illustration at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She was employed as a practical nurse at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia and then with the civil service as a medical illustrator and graphic designer. Jones continued to do freelance artwork throughout the remainder of her life.

In 1987 Anna Russell Jones was given the honorary degree Doctor of Fine Arts from Moore College of Art and Design.

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