William Hollingsworth: An Artist of Joy and Sadness Lesson Plan

Karla Smith


His dream of a career in art led Mississippian William R. Hollingsworth Jr. from his home in Jackson, Mississippi, to the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in 1930. Upon his return to Jackson after completing his education, Hollingsworth worked as a clerk in a government office while continuing to pursue his artistic endeavors. In 1938, he began painting full-time. It would be the beauty and culture of his home state of Mississippi that inspired his finest work. While his life was short-lived, his contributions to the world of art continues to be rediscovered through the enormous collection he left behind.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competency 6.


Grades 7 through 12.


  • Mississippi History Now article
  • Whiteboard and marker
  • Projector 
  • Unlined paper
  • Pen/pencil
  • Notebook paper


Students will:

  • Construct a timeline of significant events in the life of William Hollingsworth.
  • Determine how specific events had an impact on the life of Hollingsworth.
  • Compose a speech to honor William Hollingsworth.


The teacher will ask students the following questions in order to introduce today's lesson:

  • How many of you have ever been to an art exhibit or an art museum?
  • What type of experiences might inspire artists when creating their work? (personal relationships, life experiences, environment, etc.)
  • Name some of Mississippi’s artists (Hollingsworth may not be mentioned).

After asking these questions, the teacher will tell the students that they will learn about the life of Mississippi artist William Hollingsworth. The teacher will tell the students that the history and beauty of their own state served as his artistic inspiration.


  1. The students will read the Mississippi History Now article. Divide the class into small groups of two or three to make a timeline of William Hollingsworth’s life. Tell the students to be sure to include events that they feel were significant in his life.
  2. After the students have completed the timelines, ask for student volunteers to share some of the events they listed on their timelines. Lead a class discussion to determine how the shared events had an impact or influence on the life and career of William Hollingsworth. Using a projector or whiteboard, the teacher can list the events shared with the class.
  3. Students will continue working with a partner in order to compose a speech honoring Hollingsworth. In 1944, William Hollingsworth was the recipient of prize money awarded by the Southern States Art League. Students should write their speech to be appropriate for an award ceremony hosted by the Southern States Art League.


Allow student volunteers to share their speeches with the class.


  1. Class participation
  2. Timelines
  3. Speech


  1. Allow students to compose an encyclopedia entry for William Hollingsworth that would be appropriate for an encyclopedia of Mississippi artists.
  2. Allow students to design a poster that would be used at an exhibit of William Hollingsworth’s work.
  3. Sponsor a field trip to the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, or to a local art museum in your area.