How Black Artist George McCalman Reclaims Black Culture Amid Extreme Whiteness in Publishing Industry

George McCalman, artist, graphic designer, author, and creative director at McCalman Co., is reclaiming Black culture in a world where the vast majority of the publishing industry is white.

“I had stopped designing books for years because I was tired of the lack of cultural awareness. And it was just an internal frustration, that [white] book design, especially literary culture, is really tone-deaf about cultural nuances,” McCalman said, per Fast Company.

“But the truth is our societal culture has changed,” he continued.

The Grenada-born and Brooklyn-raised San Francisco resident brings “cultural artifacts” to life. His efforts are reflected in his Blackity-Black portfolio, which named him artist and creative director of James Beard Award-winning chef Bryant Terry‘s cookbook, Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diasporaand author, illustrator, and designer of Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and the Unseen.

Black Food


Black Food takes a deep dive into Black culture in forms of art, essays, history, poems, and recipes. The initial publishing process of the book involved a “bunch of white people” and McCalman wasn’t having it.

“I was continually reminding the publisher, along with Bryant [Terry], that the lens of this book had to be Black, the whole thing had to be Black, and so even the process of making the book was going to be different. And so, we established a satellite team and worked on our own completely separate,” McCalman recalled.

“We were all just riffing. There were the drums. There were the horns. It was just really beautiful and the team was just Black,” he added.

(Photo: courtesy McCalman.Co)

Illustrated Black History

(Photo: courtesy of McCalman.Co)

For McCalman, the making of the art of Illustrated Black History was a “very spiritual experience of communing” with the Black pioneers whose stories of hardships, joys, and pain he was drawn to and wanted to explore further, according to a radio interview.

(Photo: courtesy of McCalman.Co)