Black History Month 2024: African Americans and the Arts  - The Cengage Blog (2024)

Published: 2/7/2024

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The national theme for Black History Month 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts.”

Black History Month 2024 is a time to recognize and highlight the achievements of Black artists and creators, and the role they played in U.S. history and in shaping our country today.

To commemorate this year’s theme, we’ve gathered powerful quotes about learning, culture and equality from five historic Black American authors, teachers and artists who made a significant impact in the Arts, education ― and the nation.

Making history

“Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.”

– Carter G. Woodson, Author, Journalist, Historian and Educator, 1875-1950

Known as the “Father of Black History,” Carter G. Woodson was primarily self-taught in most subjects. In 1912, he became the second Black person to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard.

He is the author of more than 30 books, including “The Mis-Education of the Negro.

Carter G. Woodson dedicated his life to teaching Black History and incorporating the subject of Black History in schools. He co-founded what is now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. (ASALH). In February 1926, Woodson launched the first Negro History Week, which has since been expanded into Black History Month.

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Providing a platform

“I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent.”

– Augusta Savage, Sculptor, 1892-1962

An acclaimed and influential sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance, Augusta Savage was a teacher and an activist who fought for African American rights in the Arts. She was one out of only four women, and the only Black woman, commissioned for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. She exhibited one of her most famous works, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which she named after the hymn by James Weldon Johnson, sometimes referred to as the Black National Anthem. Her sculpture is also known as “The Harp,” renamed by the fair’s organizers.

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Raising a voice

“My mother said to me ‘My child listen, whatever you do in this world no matter how good it is you will never be able to please everybody. But what one should strive for is to do the very best humanly possible.’”

– Marian Anderson, American Contralto, 1897-1993

Marian Anderson broke barriers in the opera world. In 1939, she performed at the Lincoln Memorial in front of a crowd of 75,000 after the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) denied her access to the DAR Constitution Hall because of her race. And in 1955, Marian Anderson became the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. She sang the leading role as Ulrica in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.

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Influencing the world

“The artist’s role is to challenge convention, to push boundaries, and to open new doors of perception.”

– Henry Ossawa Tanner, Painter, 1859-1937

Henry Ossawa Tanner is known to be the first Black artist to gain world-wide fame and acclaim. In 1877, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was the only Black student.In 1891, Tanner moved to Paris to escape the racism he was confronted with in America. Here, he painted two of his most recognized works, “The Banjo Lesson” and “The Thankful Poor of 1894.

In 1923, Henry O. Tanner was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government, France’s highest honor.

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Rising up

“Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.”

Phillis Wheatley, Poet, 1753-1784

At about seven years old, Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped from her home in West Africa and sold into slavery in Boston. She started writing poetry around the age of 12 and published her first poem, “Messrs. Hussey and Coffin,” in Rhode Island’s Newport Mercury newspaper in 1767.

While her poetry spread in popularity so did the skepticism. Some did not believe an enslaved woman could have authored the poems. She defended her work to a panel of town leaders and became the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. The panel’s attestation was included in the preface of her book.

Phillis Wheatley corresponded with many artists, writers and activists, including a well-known 1774 letter to Reverand Samson Occom about freedom and equality.

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Honoring Black History Month 2024

Art plays a powerful role in helping us learn and evolve. Not only does it introduce us to a world of diverse experiences, but it helps us form stronger connections. These are just a few of the many Black creators who shaped U.S. history ― whose expressions opened many doors and minds.

Black History Month is observed each year in February. To continue your learning, go on a journey with Dr. Jewrell Rivers, as he guides you through Black History in higher education. Read his article, “A Brief History: Black Americans in Higher Education.”

Black History Month 2024: African Americans and the Arts  - The Cengage Blog (2024)


What is the 2024 theme for Black History Month? ›

The 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” explores the creativity, resilience and innovation from a culture that has uplifted spirits and soothed souls in countless ways across centuries.

What is the theme of the African American Read in 2024? ›

Watch this space for information about the 2025 AARI events, coming soon. The 2024 theme is BLACK ECOLOGIES: We will read environmental literature by Black writers, exploring a range of engagements with the natural world, from wilderness to environmental justice and climate change.

What was the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s? ›

The Harlem Renaissance was a period of rich cross-disciplinary artistic and cultural activity among African Americans between the end of World War I (1917) and the onset of the Great Depression and lead up to World War II (the 1930s).

How does the Harlem Renaissance affect us today? ›

However, the Harlem Renaissance's impact on America was indelible. The movement brought notice to the great works of African American art, and inspired and influenced future generations of African American artists and intellectuals.

What is the Black history theme for 2024 PDF? ›

See What Great Love” is the theme for the 2024 Black History Month. It comes from 1 John 3:1 (NIV): “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” A variety of resources have been provided for this observance.

How is artistic expression important to the black community in 2024? ›

Making African America: The Arts

Art can be a nuanced but powerful medium to convey political or social messages. Artistic expressions are important vehicles for cultural exchange, community expression and even social critique.

How to celebrate Black History Month 2024? ›

Visit Cultural Exhibitions: Museums across the country, like the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington D.C., host special exhibitions for Black History Month. This year, focus on galleries showcasing African American art, music, literature, and film to connect with the 2024 theme.

Which president made Black History Month? ›

Woodson and other prominent African Americans. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Why was February chosen as Black History Month? ›

Woodson chose February for reasons of tradition and reform. It is commonly said that Woodson selected February to encompass the birthdays of two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping black history, namely Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are the 12th and the 14th, respectively.

When did Harlem become Black? ›

By 1920, central Harlem was predominantly black. By the 1930s, the black population was growing, fuelled by migration from the West Indies and the southern US. As more black people moved in, white residents left; between 1920 and 1930, 118,792 white people left the neighbourhood and 87,417 black people arrived.

What was the religion during the Harlem Renaissance? ›

Religion. Christianity played a major role in the Harlem Renaissance. Many of the writers and social critics discussed the role of Christianity in African American lives. For example, a famous poem by Langston Hughes, "Madam and the Minister", reflects the temperature and mood towards religion in the Harlem Renaissance ...

What ended the Harlem Renaissance? ›

Harlem Renaissance Ends

The end of Harlem's creative boom began with the stock market crash of 1929 and The Great Depression. It wavered until Prohibition ended in 1933, which meant white patrons no longer sought out illegal alcohol in uptown clubs. By 1935, many pivotal Harlem residents had moved on to seek work.

Is The Harlem Renaissance still relevant today? ›

Like so much of the art from the Harlem Renaissance, the music that soundtracked the period remains a feature of popular culture today and has influenced generations of artists, including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Janis Joplin.

How did the Harlem Renaissance change Black culture? ›

The Harlem Renaissance was an artistic movement in the early 20th century characterized by a wave of African American writing, art, and music that reconceptualized white people's idea of “the Negro.” Black artists pushed back against racist stereotypes and misconceptions, challenged the ways in which white expectations ...

Why was art so important during the Harlem Renaissance? ›

The artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance aimed to take control over representations of their own people, instead of accepting the stereotypical depictions by white people. They asserted pride in black life and identity, and rebelled against inequality and discrimination.

What is the theme for Black History Month 2025? ›

The theme, “African Americans and Labor,” intends to encourage broad reflections on intersections between Black people's work and their workplaces in all their iterations and key moments, themes, and events in Black history and culture across time and space and throughout the U.S., Africa, and the Diaspora.

What is the annual theme for Black History Month? ›

Black History Month Theme for 2024

This year's Black History Month has the theme "African Americans and the Arts." The ASALH shares, "African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences.

What is the theme for Women's history month 2024? ›

The 2024 Women's History Month theme established by The National Women's History Alliance is titled: "Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion." The theme recognizes women throughout the country who understand that, for a positive future, we need to eliminate bias and discrimination entirely from our ...

What was this years Black History Month theme? ›

The annual celebration started out in 1926 as Negro History Week and expanded to Black History Month in the 1970s. This year celebrates "African Americans and the Arts."

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