Celebrate African-American Art, Music, and Literature

Article excerpt

[Editor's note: URLs mentioned in this article appear in the chart that follows on p. 38]

Approach Black History from a different perspective. Explore the rich heritage of African Americans through art, music, and literature. Most of our students know the impact of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. They know rap. But do they know about the Lindy Hop? Have they heard the sounds of W. C. Handy, read first-hand stories from former slaves, or been to an African-American art exhibit? Let the voices of the past speak to our students in a way that will give them a deeper appreciation for African-American culture.

Our history belongs to all of us and ought to be celebrated each and every day ... all cultures add their strength to the fabric, if only we are open to the possibility of diversity. Here is a good vehicle to deliver a year-long cultural theme.

ART

A Journey Through Art with W. H. Johnson

William Johnson (1901-1970), a major figure in 20th-century American Art, studied at the National Academy of Design in New York. Prior to World War II he spent time learning from European artists in southern France. You are invited to journey through a chronological timeline of Johnson's works. In this series of colorful paintings, you can observe how his style evolved. The "Fighters for Freedom" collection depicts famous men and women who were leaders in the quest for racial equality. In "Scenes from City Life and Country Life," universal themes are portrayed that touch the human spirit. Activities for elementary students, such as creating a self-portrait, planning a make-believe trip, or writing a story about one of the paintings, accompany each page.

Breaking Racial Barriers: African Americans in the Harmon Foundation

During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, William E. Harmon established a foundation to recognize African American achievements. In 1944, "Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origins" traveled around the country with the goal of reversing racial intolerance. Twenty of the original 50 portraits are presented in this National Portrait Gallery collection. Paul Robeson, James Weldon Johnson, and Mary Church Terrell are a few of the individuals represented.

Savoy Gallery

Tour this unique gallery by wandering through a 3-D visual that allows you to feel as though you are actually there. Click on a painting and you are given a close-up view. Click again and a larger image with information about the artist appears.

Stamp on Black History

Beginning in 1940, African Americans were recognized on U.S. postage stamps for their contributions and achievements in a variety of areas. This beautiful collection contains a picture of each stamp and information about the featured individual. There are word searches, puzzles, coloring pages, recipes, writing, and math activities that tie-in to the curriculum. Spark the interest of your reluctant students by visiting this fun site.

Web of Life: The Art of John Biggers

Critically acclaimed artist John Biggers, whose works include the "Upper Room," "Starry Crown," and "Family Unity," is the focus of this wonderful online presentation titled the Web of Life. Read about the artist's life and his eventual journey to Africa that transformed his work. View dozens of his drawings and paintings in the galleries section. In addition, there are hands-on activities for elementary and secondary students that will stretch their minds from mere observation to understanding the complex symbolic themes of Biggers' works. This exhibit, along with a corollary unit, African-American Art, is sponsored by the Getty Education Institute for Arts at their ArtsEdNet Website.

MUSIC

Archives of Early Lindy Hop

Have you ever wondered where swing began? Or the jitterbug? Look no further. In the 1920s, the Savoy in Harlem was home to the Lindy Hop, a popular dance that was soon emulated around the country. …