Early Life and Haverford College

Photograph, 1961

Paul Moses with his mother, Annie Moses, outside the family home in Ardmore, Pennsylvania

On loan from Michael A. Moses

Paul Bell Moses was born on December 9, 1929, the son of Paul S. Moses, a house painter, and Annie Moses, a laundress. Alongside his four brothers and three sisters, the young Paul grew up in a house on West Spring Avenue in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, just down the street from Haverford College. From an early age, Moses displayed a remarkable talent for painting and drawing, which his art teacher at Ardmore Junior High encouraged. In 1944, he enrolled at the prestigious Lower Merion High School, where he excelled in his classes and joined numerous clubs.

Moses made history when he began his undergraduate education at Haverford College in 1948, becoming the school’s first African-American student. There, as elsewhere, he encountered significant racism––he lived at home during his freshman year because no white student would room with him. Throughout his time at Haverford, Moses continued to develop his related interests in art history and art practice, aided by the college’s connection to the Barnes Foundation in nearby Merion. He led an art appreciation class that centered on the Foundation’s collection and developed a close personal relationship with Albert Barnes, a prominent entrepreneur, self-taught expert of fine art, collector, and philanthropist. A scholarship established by the Foundation enabled Moses to study in France at the Sorbonne and the École de Louvre in his junior year. Barnes personally wrote letters of introduction to curators and collectors in France on Moses’ behalf and offered detailed guidance to his young protégé. The experience would prove formative for Moses’ career ambitions after he graduated magna cum laude from Haverford in 1951.