So much of the magic of art is that it can represent anything we can imagine. Art can, among other things, serve as a powerful tool for self-expression, cultural preservation, and social commentary. And with 2024’s Black History Month theme of “African Americans and the Arts,” you can use this moment to illuminate the deep well of artistic expression that has both served to preserve Black history, but also extol the Black experience.
Black art holds a significant place in the cultural tapestry of the United States. For centuries, Black artists have leveraged their creative expression to reclaim their narratives, challenge stereotypes, and celebrate their heritage. From the world-renowned sculpture of Edmonia Lewis to the philosophical scholarship of W. E. B. Du Bois to the blockbuster films of Ava DuVernay to the Pulitzer Prize-winning hip hop of Kendrick Lamar, Black art not only pushes the envelope, but urges audiences to think critically about the need for Black representation and a more equitable and inclusive world.
“Du Bois believed that artistic achievement would lead to racial pride, positive self-image, confidence, and how Black people saw themselves.”
Considering the social impact that Black artists have made can offer a strong connection point to historical eras and progressive movements that align with your curriculum. From the Harlem Renaissance to the many forms of art, particularly murals, that supported the message of Black Lives Matter, art and social change often go hand in hand.
Art fosters empathy, understanding, and dialogue among diverse audiences, and Black art adds the additional depth of showcasing the beauty, struggles, and triumphs of the Black experience. Black art is a testament and celebration of the resilience, creativity, and cultural richness of the Black community.
To commemorate Black History Month and this year’s theme, Facing History has collected some of our favorite articles and activities around Black art and artists that reflect a wide range of mediums, styles, and themes.
- Article: Afrofuturism and Black Joy
Incorporate Black joy into your teachings by highlighting the resilience and creativity of the Black community through the intersecting worlds of afrofuturism.
- Article: Exploring Audre Lorde’s Intersectionality
Lorde was a Black lesbian scholar, feminist, mother, and poet who challenged us to think about the intersectionality of politics and identity.
- Article: Remembering Toni Morrison
In her 88 years, Toni Morrison left an indelible impact on the world of literature through her acclaimed work as a writer, editor, and educator and her insights into African American life.
- Mini-Lesson: Reflecting on Amanda Gorman's "The Hill We Climb"
Amanda Gorman's poem speaks to a shared American experience that resonates with youth and inspires hope.
- Article: Remembering Sidney Poitier
Poitier was both an actor and an activist. He played a leading role in African Americans’ fight for civil rights and more positive media representations from the silver screen to the streets.
- Collection: 16 Black Artists to Know
Explore the connections between eight pairs of artists in this spread from the National Gallery of Art. Some share a similar approach to artmaking, others a specific subject. A few even knew each other personally—two were roommates and two are closely related.
- Article: Honoring Harry Belafonte by Teaching Civil Rights
Learn more about Belafonte and build on his work toward realizing the full promise of our democracy with these civil rights resources.
- Mini-Lesson: Art, Imagination, and the Quest for Racial Justice
Use this to help students learn about the power of art as a tool for social change and explore how Black Lives Matter activists are using art in the fight for racial justice.