HomeLife StyleRadcliffe Bailey, Artist Who Explored Black Migration, Dies at 54

Radcliffe Bailey, Artist Who Explored Black Migration, Dies at 54

Though Mr. Bailey himself never migrated from his adopted home, Georgia, after moving there as a child, he chafed at being pigeonholed as a Southern artist, or for that matter as a Black artist. “I don’t want to be the ‘other,’” he said in a 2013 interview with the magazine Bomb.

“I see myself as making work that is universal in many ways,” he added. “First and foremost people say, ‘You’re this, you’re that,’ but I’m human. These names and categories change across time, and I want to make work that’s timeless.”

Radcliffe Orville Bailey Jr. was born on Nov. 25, 1968, in Bridgeton, N.J., the elder of two sons of a railroad engineer father and a schoolteacher mother, Brenda (Coles) Bailey.

His father’s side of the family had originally settled in New Jersey while fleeing oppression in the South after the Civil War. That family migration saga, Mr. Bailey said in a 2020 video interview, would later inform his work.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Bailey is survived by his wife, Leslie (Parks) Bailey; a daughter, Olivia Bailey; and a son, Radcliffe Coles Bailey, known as Coles.

When Mr. Bailey was 4 years old, his family was on their way to Florida on a road trip when they stopped at Paschal’s, an Atlanta soul food restaurant that was popular with civil rights leaders. There, they met the Rev. Lucius M. Tobin, a professor of religion at Morehouse College. Mr. Tobin’s family led the Baileys on a historical tour of the city, and the Baileys, who were already considering a move to either the South or the West, settled in Atlanta soon after.

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