Aaron Douglas was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Aaron and Elizabeth Douglas. Douglass graduated from Topeka High School in 1917. He received his B.A (Bachelor of Arts) degree from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in 1922. In 1925, Douglass moved to New York City, settling in Harlem
Douglas developed his interest in art at an early age and was encouraged by his mother to follow his dream. A few months after arriving in Harlem he began to produce illustrations for The Crisis and Opportunity, the two most important magazines associated with the Harlem Renaissance. He began to study Winold Reiss, a German Artist (illustrator of "The New Negro"), Reiss's teachings helped Douglass form the modernist style he would employ for the next decade.
Douglas was heavily influenced by the African culture he painted for. His natural talent and his newly acquired inspiration allowed Douglas to be considered the "Father of African American arts". Douglass was an important part of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to being the illustrator for the two most important magazines during this time, he illustrated books and painted canvases and murals. From the late 1920s to the 1940s, his art was shown across the United States in universities, galleries, hotels and museums.
Douglas is internationally recognized as the foremost visual artist of the Harlem Renaissance. His paintings, murals and illustrations capture the dynamic spirit of the period, when artists in Harlem were creatively expressing their visions of racial identity and the future of African Americans