Born April 13, 1924, in Gastonia, North Carolina, John Biggers was the youngest of seven children of Paul and Cora Biggers. Cora worked as a housekeeper, and Paul was a preacher, teacher and school principal. They encouraged their children to obtain an education. Originally enrolled in Virginia’s Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) to pursue a career in the plumbing profession, Biggers switched his focus to art after taking a class with Victor Lowenfeld. A Jewish refugee from World War II Germany, Lowenfeld encouraged his African American students to learn about their African heritage by studying African art and its contexts. Biggers continued his study of art and art education under Lowenfeld at Pennsylvania State University, where he obtained his master’s degree in 1948. Biggers moved to Houston, Texas, in 1949 to start an art department at Texas Southern University. Eight years later, he made his first trip to Africa to study its culture and traditions. His experiences in Africa and growing up in North Carolina influenced the imagery of his paintings.