I was not Doran Ross's mentor; I was the doorman who cracked open the portal to the seductive world of sub-Saharan African art.

It was a half century ago; I was teaching my very first university art history course, which was also the first African art history course offered at California State University, Fresno (CSUF). Into that 1971 room wandered Doran Ross, an English-psychology major still in search of a passion. Doran remained in the class for the semester and stayed with the subject for the rest of his life.

After he aced all the exams, writing stand-alone essays in both my African and Andean classes, I suggested he had a natural aptitude for the arts of Africa and should consider devoting some time to it. The next semester he became my reader. The following year, fully committed to African art history, Doran motored off in his maroon Volvo to...

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