The Amistad Research Center's (ARC) permanent art collection is one of the most historically significant bodies of work by African American artists, and spans from the 19th century through the present day. It boasts an exciting array of paintings, sculpture and works on paper, now numbering over 400. Many of the works in ARC's collection were originally gathered by the Harmon Foundation in the early to mid-20th century and deeded to the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries (UCBHM), which donated the works to Amistad in 1983. The original UCBHM donation includes important examples from the 19th century, including the works of Edward M. Bannister, William H. Simpson and Henry O. Tanner; to the burgeoning years of African American visual arts during the 20th century with the works of William Artis, Richmond Barthé, Selma Burke, Elizabeth Catlett, Claude Clark, Aaron Douglas, Malvin Gray Johnson, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, William E. Scott, Ellis Wilson and Hale Woodruff.
Works by Romare Bearden, Gwendolyn Bennett, John Biggers, David Driskell, Vivian Ellis, Clementine Hunter, Jules Lion, Sam Middleton, Keith Morrison, James Phillips, John T. Scott and Ellis Wilson, among others, were added to the collection over its 30-year history. In 2014, Harlem Renaissance scholar Thomas H. Wirth bequeathed to ARC over 400 works by writer and artist Richard Bruce Nugent. Believed to be the largest collection of works by Nugent held by an institution, it includes examples of Nugent's graphic design work for the NAACP and the printing firm House of Marr, as well as watercolors, pencil and ink sketches, charcoal drawings and oil paintings. More recent additions to the collection include works by Kesha Bruce and Senga Nengudi. The diversity of the collection is seen in additional works by white American, Indigenous, Canadian, European and Caribbean artists.