Edward Samuel Fredericks, of Oakland, CA, passed away at home on Wednesday, November 6, 2013, at the age of 69, after a long and courageous battle with complex cancers, resulting in fatal leukemia. Named Edward, after his maternal grandfather, and Samuel, after his paternal grandfather, Mr. Fredericks was born on February 20, 1944, in Springfield, MA. He was the second of five children of Mildred and Henry (Harry) Fredericks. Called “Eddie” by close friends and family, he was playfully nicknamed “Teacup” by a childhood friend; this name stuck with him among his close companions.
After the tragic death of Mr. Fredericks’ father when he was just 10 years old, Mildred married Hughan Williams, and the family constellation grew, with Eddie now the second of nine children.
Mr. Fredericks attended grade school in Springfield at East Union Street School, William M. Deberry School and Tapley Elementary. He then attended Buckingham Junior High and went on to matriculate at Technical High School. He contributed to the household by maintaining paper routes, working at a meat market, doing odd jobs for neighbors, and picking tobacco in Connecticut during the summer. Prior to attending college, he worked as a machine operator for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, from 1963 to 1964.
He went on to attend Tennessee State University, graduating in 1968 with a B.S. in Mathematics. He moved with his devoted wife, Georgia, who has predeceased him, to Woodstock, New York, and began his career as a systems programmer with IBM, in nearby Kingston.
In 1971 he was asked by musician Taj Mahal to help develop his music career. Mr. Fredericks moved his family to California, first serving as Mahal’s road manager, then becoming his personal and business manager. He became instrumental in every aspect of Mahal’s business, helping Mahal become a globally recognized artist. In October of 1977, after substantially growing Mahal’s business and renown, Eddie left Mahal to take a position as Director of Sales for Western Book Distributors.
During this time, Mr. Fredericks’s family began to grow, and he became the proud father of five beautiful children.
During the late 1970s he began collecting and framing the work of African American artists, which at the time were undervalued and under-appreciated. This led him to establish what would later become Samuel’s Gallery. Feeling the pull of his entrepreneurial Caribbean roots, Mr. Fredericks began using his middle name, “Samuel,” from his paternal West Indian grandfather.
With the goal of contributing to the visual and cultural enrichment of African Americans, and promoting the idea that the African American artist is essential to American culture as a whole, this business became Mr. Fredericks’ passion. For more than twenty-five years, Samuel’s Gallery has been a seminal force in the establishment of a market for African American Art, locally and nationally. Samuel’s Gallery gave many African American artists exposure that lead to national acclaim, while introducing African Americans to the joys of collecting art. For 18 years the gallery was located on the Oakland, CA waterfront, first in Jack London Village, and later in Jack London Square.
Samuel, whom many have described as a “cultural warrior,” coined the phrase “The New Renaissance in African American Art,” and served as an integral part of this movement, which has endured for over two decades and continues to thrive to this day.
Samuel summarized the mission of his gallery as “images that positively reflect African Americans and our heritage — of what we are, who we are, and what we can be — will nourish and sustain us. Art is a place where we can tell our own story, in the images of our own choosing.”
Samuel is survived by his devoted wife and life partner of over 16 years, Robin Gregory; daughters Jacqueline Cisneros (Andres), Khadija Wilson (David), Safiya Fredericks, and Serah Blackstone-Fredericks, and son Rahsaan Fredericks (Patricia), as well as grandchildren, Kobi, Amirah, and Nehla. He is also survived by brothers Henry, Richard, Osbourne, and Winston; and sister Connie, along with a large community of loving family and friends.
He is predeceased by former wife Georgia; brothers Robert and Hughan; and sister Carole.
The family wishes to thank the staff at Alta Bates Summit Cancer Center and Hospital for their compassionate, loving care, especially Dr. Rajesh Behl and nurse Peg Logan. We also wish to deeply thank the staff of Sutter Hospice Care, especially R.N. Jimeka, who lovingly guided us through Samuel’s transition.
In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome donations, in the name of Edward Samuel Fredericks, to The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
A community memorial service is being planned for the future.