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SIM-21: Cleve Overton Papers

Identifier: SIM-21


  • Majority of material found within 1945 - 2015

Biographical / Historical

Cleve Overton (September 17, 1928- April 29, 2020) was an artist and author. His life was devoted to eliminating race-based discrimination and increasing racial harmony. Overton was born in Staten Island, NY and served as a soldier in an all-black army unit, the 76th/933rd AAA Anti-Aircraft Battalion in Japan, from 1945 to 1948. He returned to Staten Island and used veterans benefits to complete courses in in art, sculpture and photography. He also became a member of the Congress of Racial Equality. One of his first jobs on Staten Island was at Bethlehem Steel. The company's discrimination against black workers led Overton and others to form a group and fight the company. Although the company eventually permitted blacks to work the same jobs as whites, the Staten Island facility closed soon afterwards.

As an artist, Overton practiced in conventional and unconventional media, including found-object assembalges, clay sculpture and pottery; sculpture in copper, steel, tin, and wood; and collage. He taught as an adjunct professor of art at Baruch College and the College of Staten Island and founded two studios on Staten Island, the Potter’s Wheel and Earthworks, the latter a studio where he welded creative and functional wood stoves in the 1980s. Overton exhibited his artwork nationally and internationally in juried shows and many of his works are in private collections in the USA, Europe, Africa and Asia. He exhibited in dozens of galleries, including The National Museum of Dakar (Senegal), the Colonnade Gallery of George Washington University (Washington, DC), Fitchburg Art Museum (Massachusetts), Savannah College of Art and Design (Georgia), HNTB Architects (Washington, DC), Parrish Gallery (Washington, DC), and Artomatic (Arlington, VA). A June 20, 2003 article by Metcalfe in the "DC Citipaper" dubbed Overton “The Transformer Man,” and stated, “His sometimes haphazard assemblages evolved to mirror the precision-made nature of their materials… a cross between Louise Nevelson’s abstract sculptures and Giger’s visions of alien technology. With unwanted electronics, a few simple tools, and an environmental philosophy picked up in Africa, Cleve Overton practices his own form of waste management.” Overton was also a photographer who published two photographic books with his wife, Jude Andreasen: "Creative Recycling: Handmade in Africa" and "The Doors of Senegal."

As an author, Overton published a non-fiction memoir, "In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty," a book of essays, "The New Annals of Staten Island," and a fictional satire based on his adventures in Africa, "The Last Train to Kisangani." His article on “Ceramic Art in Senegal” was published in "Ceramics Monthly" in 1996, and over the years, the "Staten Island Advance" published his letters, as well as articles about him and his political activities.

Although Staten Island was always the most important place in his life. He also lived in Washington, DC (1989-2018) and Bradenton, Florida (2018-2020), as well as making extended stays in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1984-86), Senegal (1993-95) and visiting Armenia, Cameroon, Cuba, Ghana, Italy, Mali, the Netherlands, Niger, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and the U.K.


5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged into seven series: Series 1: Biographical, 1970-2020 Series 3: Creative Productions, 1978-2017 Series 4: Subject Files, 1975-1998 Series 5: Photographs, 1920-2014 Series 6: Printed Materials Series 7: Realia

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These materials were donated to the CSI Archives & Special Collections by Cleve Overton.

Separated Materials

Cataloged bibliographically:

Works by Cleve Overton: In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty: A Memoir of a Black American. Washington, D.C.: Diaspora Press, 2005. [E 185.93 .N56 O96 2005

The Last Train to Kisangani. Washington, D.C.: Diaspora Press, 2018. [PS 3615 .O937 L37 2018].

The New Annals of Staten Island. Washington, D.C.: Diaspora Press, 2014. [F 127 .S7 O94 2014].

African American Firefighters' Memorial Quilt. The Sandy Ground Historical Society African American Heritage Quilting Workshop.

Blazing Star Burying Ground. SIIAS.

The Sandy Ground Oysterman. The Sandy Ground Historical Society African American Heritage Quilting Workshop. [PAM 581]

39th Annual Mills G. Skinner Awards Luncheon

In Progress
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Repository Details

Part of the CSI Archives & Special Collections Repository