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From Civil Rights to Black Liberation: The Arts
"As the civil rights struggle widened into a national liberation struggle, many activists began looking for political strategies that went beyond the integrationism of mainstream civil rights groups." Liberation School
Studio Magazine is the leading magazine with a focus on artists of African descent locally, nationally, and internationally. The publication, well into its second decade of circulation, appears in print biannually and is updated weekly here.
The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s was a period characterized by an outpouring of literature by African Americans. Although it was primarily a literary and intellectual movement, it is our hope to also explore the role of the visual arts, music and performing arts. This cultural renaissance was not limited to Harlem, but was evident in other cities across the country. According to Kellner in his Historical Dictionary of the Era: “‘Harlem Renaissance’ is actually a misnomer, because the rich surge of black arts and letters during the 1920s was not limited to activity... in New York.” This statement is the premise and motivating force behind the Library’s desire to create a web site on the Black Renaissance in Washington.
American Studies Department and English Department, University of Minnesota
Focused on the work of artists and writers, musicians, and filmmakers, the site provides artist biographies and tools for classroom use.
Whitfield Lovell by Irving Sandler (Introduction by); Sarah Lewis (Contribution by); Kevin Quashie (Introduction by); Klaus Ottmann (Contribution by); Elsa Smithgall (Contribution by); Julie L. McGee (Contribution by)
Publication Date: 2016-10-04
Kitchen Table Series by Carrie Mae Weems; Sarah Lewis
Publication Date: 2016-04-26
The Complete Jacob Lawrence by Peter T. Nesbett (Editor); Michelle DuBois (Editor)
Publication Date: 2003-12-01
Kehinde Wiley by Eugenie Tsai; Connie H. Choi (Contribution by); Kehinde Wiley; Brooklyn Museum Staff (Contribution by)
Publication Date: 2015-02-20
Soul of a Nation by Mark Godfrey; David Driskell (Text by); Edmund Gaither (Text by); Jae Jarrell (Text by); Wadsworth Jarrell (Text by); Samella Lewis (Text by); Susan E. Cahan (Text by)
Publication Date: 2017-09-26
Olio by Tyehimba Jess
Publication Date: 2016-04-05
Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
Publication Date: 2017-09-12
Said the Shotgun to the Head by Saul Williams
Publication Date: 2003-09-01
She by Saul Williams
Publication Date: 1999-06-01
The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington by National Museum of African American History and Culture (U.S.) Staff
Publication Date: 2009-01-07
Charles White by Andrea D. Barnwell; Charles White
Publication Date: 2002-10-01
A Beautiful Ghetto by Devin Allen; D. Watkins (Introduction by); Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Introduction by)
Publication Date: 2017-09-12
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Publication Date: 2014-10-07
Head off and Split by Nikky Finney
Publication Date: 2011-01-27
The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe; Michael Wolfe
Publication Date: 1994-01-12
Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis
Publication Date: 2015-09-29
Phillis Wheatley by Vincent Carretta
Publication Date: 2011-11-01
Harlem by Thelma Golden (Introduction by); Deborah Willis (Text by); Cheryl Finley (Text by); Elizabeth Alexander (Text by); Henry Louis Gates (Foreword by)
Publication Date: 2010-10-19
History of African-American Artists by Romare Bearden; Harry Henderson
In an interview with the rapper Kanye West from 2003, shortly before he released “The College Dropout,” West recounted the time he met the poet Gwendolyn Brooks, at a dinner held for students in Beverly Hills, Chicago, when he was in “fourth grade or sixth grade.” Brooks asked him if he had a poem to read, West recalled. “I said”—here, the interviewer writes, he put on a high-pitched boy’s voice—“ ‘No, but I can write one real quick.’ I went in the back, wrote a poem, and then read it for her and the 40 staff members.”
Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
Publication Date: 2006-07-03
Fired Up! Ready to Go!
Fired up! Ready to Go! Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity by Peggy Cooper Cafritz
The co-founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Cafritz has published, “Fired Up! Ready to Go! Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity: An African American Life in Art. The Collections of Peggy Cooper Cafritz” a fully illustrated volume about her life, the collection she lost, and the new one she is building.
Poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron was born in Chicago. His mother, Bobbie Scott-Heron, was an opera singer and a teacher, and his Jamaican-born father, Gilbert Heron, was the first professional black soccer player in the United States and the first to play on Celtic FC in Scotland. After his parents’ early divorce, Scott-Heron moved to Lincoln, Tennessee, to live with his grandmother Lily Scott, a musician and civil rights activist. She bought Scott-Heron his first piano and introduced him to the work of Langston Hughes. In Lincoln, Scott-Heron was one of three black children selected to desegregate his junior high school. After enduring ongoing racism at school, Scott-Heron moved to New York City to live with his mother. During his high school years in the Bronx, he discovered the work of LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka). Scott-Heron completed several years of undergraduate course work at Lincoln University and later earned an MA in creative writing at the Johns Hopkins University.
Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith on America’s Troubled Racial History
For all of her versatility and range, the 45-year-old poet, who directs the creative-writing program at Princeton University, had resisted exploring America’s tormented racial history. With Wade in the Water, she’s doing so from a powerful, and highly public platform: Last spring the Library of Congress appointed her poet laureate. “I had to say to myself, ‘I haven’t written enough about blackness, yet it’s part of my consciousness and my lived experience,’ ” she says. “I had to get over that anxiety of ‘I haven’t done this before.’ ”
Explore 1930's Harlem with this self-guided audio tour of the places and artworks that inspired a young Jacob Lawrence. Narrated by WQXR host Terrance McKnight, the tour features commentary by key cultural leaders working in Harlem today.
In 1941, Jacob Lawrence, then just twenty-three years old, completed a series of sixty paintings about the Great Migration, the mass movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. Lawrence’s work is a landmark in the history of modern art and a key example of the way that history painting was radically reimagined in the modern era. Explore the social and cultural nuances of each of the sixty panels in Lawrence’s series here.
Jacob Lawrence was born on September 7, 1917, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The young Lawrence’s parents—Rosa Lee, a domestic worker from Virginia, and Jacob, a railroad cook from South Carolina—were among the many who moved from the South to the North in the first years of the Great Migration. In 1919, the family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, at the time a commercial center and prominent transportation hub for the steel industry. Lawrence’s sister Geraldine was born that year.
This section gathers video interviews with an extraordinary group of cultural and scholarly leaders about Harlem’s art scene in the 1930s and 1940s and the lasting legacy of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. It also features poems and readings by the ten formidable poets who contributed to the Migration Series Poetry Suite.
Amy Sherald unveiled her portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Galley. Reactions to the image have been mixed, with some unhappy about the image's cool color palette and Sherald's take on Mrs. Obama's likeness. Despite that, Sherald's explanation for her artistic choices demonstrates how deeply she considers every part of her work. In an interview with NPR, she explained the decision to paint Mrs. Obama in the multi-colored dress seen in the portrait. But once I saw her in that one, I knew that that was the one that, you know, she needed to be frozen in time in. It has a connection to, you know, the art canon. But then it also speaks to black culture. And it reminded me of the Gee's Bend quilts that women made over the course of their lifetimes and were discovered later on in life.
Black History Month is in full swing and what a time it is to be black--and visible. Social media timelines and threads are flooded with all things that have us loving the skin we are in and celebrating the culture that connects us. Black art has done this long before the digital era. Black artist are the documentarians of black life. Get into these artistic masters from the past and the living artist they inspired .
Violinist Ginger Smock was a critical figure in the development of the Los Angeles jazz scene and a trailblazing leader for female musicians in the male-dominated music industry of the 1940s and 1950s. Her work helped to pave the way for future jazz violinists like India Cooke and Regina Carter.
Ginger and Her Violin, 1954
Photograph by Robert S. Scurlock
Gift of Ivy G. and Dean Tatam Reeves in memory of John Reeves
Musicologist and Violinist Laura Risk is currently researching the life and music of Ginger Smock. I recently finished a PhD in musicology at McGill University. My thesis research was on traditional music in Quebec, but I had the pleasure of working on a number of other fascinating projects over the last few years. Here are two: the diffusion of the string instrument technique called "chopping," and the life and music of jazz violinist Ginger Smock.
In honor of Black History Month, we are celebrating black excellence by highlighting some of the very best black artists producing and creating work today. This week we are highlighting ten contemporary black composers you should know:
Strange Fruit and the Power of the Protest Song
Strange Fruit by Gary Golio; Charlotte Riley-Webb (Illustrator)
Harry Belafonte was born in Harlem to Caribbean parents. His mother was sat on him getting an education but Belafonte found school to be difficult due to dyslexia. At 17 years old, he decided to drop out of high school and joined the navy. When he returned home, he became a janitor’s assistant. While on the job, he was given theater tickets as a tip. This was his first introduction to theater and that night he found his true calling.
Harry Belafonte on racism, patriotism & war, 1967: CBC Archives | CBC
Negro Ensemble Company turned spotlight on black theater
In the 1960s, New York’s theater world was still highly segregated. Only a handful of black actors, such as Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte, and a few African-American playwrights, such as Lorraine Hansberry, had been able to see some mainstream success. Most were products of the short-lived American Negro Theater in Harlem, which marked the 75th anniversary of its creation in 2015.
Thelma Golden Knows That Showing Great Art Means Nurturing New Artists
On a late fall afternoon, a young woman in her early 20s walked up to the reception desk of the Studio Museum in Harlem and asked, politely, how she could exhibit her own work in the institution’s galleries. Given that the Studio Museum is one of the kingmakers of the international art scene—thanks to the leadership of director Thelma Golden—the request was a bit fantastical. But Golden has made a point of nurturing talent from the surrounding neighborhood, so the receptionist promptly shared material about the museum’s residency program. “What makes this institution unique is the way in which we see our role,” says Golden of the museum she’s led for 12 years. “We are devoted to the presentation, interpretation, stewardship, and collection of artwork. But we also see ourselves as advocates for the artists themselves.”
In America, when a police-involved killing is caught on camera, the ensuing news coverage often omits a key voice─that of the victim. But, two days after the Pittsburgh-area police officer Michael Rosfeld fatally shot Antwon Rose, an unarmed seventeen-year-old black high-school senior from Rankin, Pennsylvania, hundreds of protestors, family, friends, and community members gathered on the street for a memorial and stood in silence to hear Antwon speak from beyond the grave. At the memorial, an activist took the stage to recite a poem, “i am not what you think!,” that Antwon wrote during his tenth-grade honors English class, when he was just fifteen─old enough to understand the dangers of the world, but too young to face them alone. Rosfeld, who shot Antwon three times as he was fleeing a traffic stop, now faces a homicide charge.
Though Antwon Rose’s words in “i am not what you think!” eerily predicted his future, the power of his poem isn’t limited to its prescience.Photograph by Justin Merriman / Getty
Stream dance productions and documentaries by the most influential performers and companies from the 20th Century. Includes ballet, tap, jazz contemporary, experimental, as well as forerunners and pioneers of modern.
How do you think photography of African Americans and by African Americans changed over the years? To try to summarize it in a way without getting into all the different nuances of contemporary photography, the main thematic shift is going from photography as evidence of an argument about Black life in the 19th century, whether it was a deliberate move to show a denigrating cultural narrative or to offer a corrective to that narrative. For example, in W.E.B. Du Bois’ exhibition of American Negros in the 1900 Paris exhibition it is an evidentiary enterprise. It was effectively a mode of documentation as a kind of proof of one argument or another. I think the move out of that has become a far more celebratory exercise but still is slated with the weight of that origin moment.
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry; Robert Nemiroff (Introduction by)
On March 11, 1959, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway and changed the face of American theater forever. As the first-ever black woman to author a play performed on Broadway, she did not shy away from richly drawn characters and unprecedented subject matter. The play attracted record crowds and earned the coveted top prize from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle. While the play is seen as a groundbreaking work of art, the timely story of Hansberry’s life is far less known.
The Anacostia Community museum explores social issues impacting diverse populations of the DC metropolitan area to promote mutual understanding and strengthen community bonds. ACM is a museum of, for and by the people. It promotes the coming together of diverse people and perspectives to learn from, empower and uplift one another to create a more tolerant, unified metropolitan community. “Your community. Your Story.”
To be the premier experience and best resource for information and inspiration about the lives of African American Marylanders. The museum seeks to realize its mission by collecting, preserving, interpreting, documenting and exhibiting the rich contributions of African American Marylanders from the state’s earliest history to the present and the future.
A Wreath For Emmett Till
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson; Philippe Lardy (Illustrator)
A Wreath for Emmett Till is a sophisticated and thought-provoking poem written by Connecticut's poet laureate and award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson. This book combines emotion, history, and social commentary to bring the life and death of Emmett Louis Till back to our nation's consciousness. Emmett Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy murdered in 1955 in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at or speaking to a white woman. Though two men were tried for the crime, they were acquitted; no one has been convicted for Emmett's murder.
The Most Photographed Persons
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas by Frederick Douglass
The first time I heard Sister Rosetta Tharpe, I cried real tears. Not because her distinct sound of music sounded like one of God’s angels drank a fifth of gin and figured out a way to plug an extension cord into its harp. It wasn’t because I was listening to something that was recorded in the 1930s that sounded like Prince had laid it down in a studio yesterday. It was the erasure.
The Philosopher Who Believed That Art Was Key to Black Liberation
Alain LeRoy Locke’s drive to revolutionize black culture was fueled in no small part by his sense of self-importance. “When a man has something to be conceited over,” he wrote, “I call it self-respect.” Unlike many of his colleagues and rivals in the black freedom struggle of the early 20th century, Locke, a trailblazer of the Harlem Renaissance, believed that art and the Great Migration, not political protest, were the keys to black progress. Black Americans would only forge a new and authentic sense of themselves, he argued, by pursuing artistic excellence and insisting on physical mobility.
Winold Reiss, National Portrait Gallery
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams into an upper middle-class African-American family. Her father was an Air Force surgeon and her mother a psychiatric social worker. Cultural icons like Dizzie Gillepsie, Miles Davis and W.E.B. DuBois were regular guests in the Williams home. Shange attended Barnard College and UCLA, earning both a bachelors and master degree in American Studies. Shange’s college years were difficult, however, and frustrated and hurt after separating from her first husband, she attempted suicide several times before focusing her rage against the limitations society imposes on black women. While earning a master’s degree, she reaffirmed her personal strength based on a self-determined identity and took her African name, which means “she who comes with her own things” and she “who walks like a lion.” Since then she has sustained a triple career as an educator, a performer/director, and a writer whose work draws heavily on her experiences of being a black female in America.
Introducing a new radio show, Music In Culture: Sounds of the Black Experience on WOWD 94.3 FM
This is a fresh new show that uses the approach of ethnomusicology to explore the many genres of Black music from all over the world, from African American jazz and blues to Afro Brazilian Samba Schools and South African protest anthems. Music In Culture will feature international and local interviews with musicians, artists and activists from Africa and the Diaspora, sound documentaries and the music!
Black Protest Writing, from W.E.B. DuBois to Kendrick Lamar
This past Black History Month, watching the 2016 Grammy Awards provided me with a profound example of just how rich the tradition is of subtext in black protest literature. I sat there awed by the way the rhythmic American poetry artist Kendrick Lamar limped forward on the nearly pitch black stage, but for a commanding spray of light illuminating him and the chain gang to which he was attached, shuffling in single file, acting out the drama of the rap, pointing to the deep meaning lying just under the text of Lamar’s written and spoken words.