Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (2024)

African American artists— poets, writers, visual artists, and dancers— have historically served as change agents through their crafts.

Drawn from their ancestors' ancient rites of passage and the shared hopes of liberty, Black artists continue to fuse the rhythmic cadence of creative expressions with the pulsating beats of progress.Our museum celebrates Black History Month 2024 by highlighting the "art of resistance" and the artists who used their crafts to uplift the race, speak truth to power and inspire a nation.

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Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice. Paul Robeson (1898-1976) Concert artist, actor, athlete and activist

Whether digital, literary, visual or performing arts, Black trailblazers and innovators revolutionized their fields, often transforming them by pioneering new techniques and styles. Through art, important issues and figures in African American history are exalted, and underrepresented stories are preserved. For the entire month of February, we invite everyone to join us in celebrating art and its relationship with justice. Art plays a role in communicating emotions, building community and inspiring action.

Cultural Expressions (Literature and Poetry)

Culture shapes lives. It’s in the food people eat, the languages they speak, the art they create, and many other ways they express themselves.

I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womanness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable. Audre Lorde (1934-1992) in 1980 Writer, professor, philosopher, poet and civil rights activist

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (1)

Cultural Expressions Exhibition

Cultural Expressionsis a circular, experiential, introductory space to African American and African diaspora culture.

Learn More about Cultural Expressions Exhibition

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (2)

(Re)Creating the Narrative: The Black Women’s Literary Renaissance of the 1970s

Black women writers have consistently been a part of the cultural renaissances that have reshaped Black culture, nationally and globally.

Learn More about (Re)Creating the Narrative: The Black Women’s Literary Renaissance of the 1970s

Icons and Luminaries

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (3)

Phillis Wheatley

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Booklet containing a biography of Phillis Wheatley and reprinted correspondence between her and George Washington, including a poem she sent him, "His Excellency General Washington."

In 2023, the museum acquired the largest private collection of items to bring new context and perspective to the life and literary impact of poet Phillis Wheatley Peters (c.1753–1784).

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (4)

Gwendolyn Brooks

David Jackson (1922-1966)

In 1946, Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) became a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry, and in 1950, she was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize, for her collection of poetry Annie Allen. The volume chronicled the life of a young Black girl growing up in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Brooks was appointed the Illinois Poet Laureate in 1968, inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1976, and by 1985, she had become Poet Laureate of the United States. In this photograph from 1963, the poet holds a copy of Maud Martha, the only book of adult fiction she authored.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (5)

Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman was named the first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017. Gorman has served as the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. She has performed at the Library of Congress and spoken at the United Nations. She is the founder and executive director of One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing programs for underserved youth.

Before Amanda Gorman made history as the youngest poet to speak at a presidential inauguration, the National Museum of African American History and Culture featured her in our third annual Women’s E3 Summit in September 2020.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (6)

Langston Hughes

Johnson Publishing Company Archive. Couresty J. Paul Getty Trust and Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Langston Hughes (1901-1967) was a poet, social activist, novelist, playwright,columnist, and a significant figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a graduate of Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania.

Born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902, it was the writer's many years in Harlem that would come to characterize his work. There he focused squarely on the lives of working-class black Americans, delicately dismantling clichésand, in doing so, arriving at a genuine portrayal of the people he knew best.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (7)

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Getty Images/Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage

Author, journalist and activist Ta-Nehisi Coates attends a panel at The Apollo Theater on February 27, 2018 in New York City. His writings include Between the World and Me, winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy, an annotated collection of new and previously published essays on the Obama era.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (8)

Benjamin Banneker

Collection of National Postal Museum

Mathematician, astronomer and almanac author Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) as portrayed on a stamp released in 1980 as part of a Black Heritage series.Collection of National Postal Museum.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (9)

Phillis Wheatley

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Booklet containing a biography of Phillis Wheatley and reprinted correspondence between her and George Washington, including a poem she sent him, "His Excellency General Washington."

In 2023, the museum acquired the largest private collection of items to bring new context and perspective to the life and literary impact of poet Phillis Wheatley Peters (c.1753–1784).

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (10)

Gwendolyn Brooks

David Jackson (1922-1966)

In 1946, Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) became a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry, and in 1950, she was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize, for her collection of poetry Annie Allen. The volume chronicled the life of a young Black girl growing up in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Brooks was appointed the Illinois Poet Laureate in 1968, inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1976, and by 1985, she had become Poet Laureate of the United States. In this photograph from 1963, the poet holds a copy of Maud Martha, the only book of adult fiction she authored.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (11)

Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman was named the first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017. Gorman has served as the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. She has performed at the Library of Congress and spoken at the United Nations. She is the founder and executive director of One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing programs for underserved youth.

Before Amanda Gorman made history as the youngest poet to speak at a presidential inauguration, the National Museum of African American History and Culture featured her in our third annual Women’s E3 Summit in September 2020.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (12)

Langston Hughes

Johnson Publishing Company Archive. Couresty J. Paul Getty Trust and Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Langston Hughes (1901-1967) was a poet, social activist, novelist, playwright,columnist, and a significant figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a graduate of Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania.

Born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902, it was the writer's many years in Harlem that would come to characterize his work. There he focused squarely on the lives of working-class black Americans, delicately dismantling clichésand, in doing so, arriving at a genuine portrayal of the people he knew best.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (13)

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Getty Images/Photo by Shahar Azran/WireImage

Author, journalist and activist Ta-Nehisi Coates attends a panel at The Apollo Theater on February 27, 2018 in New York City. His writings include Between the World and Me, winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy, an annotated collection of new and previously published essays on the Obama era.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (14)

Benjamin Banneker

Collection of National Postal Museum

Mathematician, astronomer and almanac author Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) as portrayed on a stamp released in 1980 as part of a Black Heritage series.Collection of National Postal Museum.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (15)

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Lorraine Hansberry: Playwright, Writer, and Activist

Her own family’s landmark court case against discriminatory real estate covenants in Chicago would serve as inspiration for her seminal Broadway play, "A Raisin in the Sun."

Learn more about Lorraine Hansberry: Playwright, Writer, and Activist

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (16)

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The Power of Poetry: Pre-Civil War to Reconstruction

As a medium for accomplished and innovative writers, poetry has always loomed large on the African American literary landscape.

Read More about The Power of Poetry: Pre-Civil War to Reconstruction

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (17)

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The New Negro Renaissance to the Black Arts Movement

After the end of WWI in 1919, artists, writers and musicians in black communities began to express themselves in new ways that embraced an African past, racial pride, and artistic and political freedom.

Read More about The New Negro Renaissance to the Black Arts Movement

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (18)

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“A Writer Is by Definition a Disturber of the Peace”

“One writes out of one thing only - one's own experience,” the author James Baldwin penned in “Notes of a Native Son,” his 1955 collection of essays on issues of race in America and Europe.

Read More about “A Writer Is by Definition a Disturber of the Peace”

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (19)

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75 Years of Ebony Magazine

Explore the Johnson Publishing Collection and celebrate 75 years of Ebony Magazine and the African American experience.

Read More about 75 Years of Ebony Magazine

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (20)

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Boots on the Ground

Although James Baldwin often considered himself a “witness” to the Civil Rights Movement, this role did not bar him from actively participating in some of the Movement’s most critical, influential events.

Read More about Boots on the Ground

We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the publick been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly. Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm Editors in the first edition of Freedom’s Journal founded in 1827

Searchable Museum

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (21)

The Power of The Press

Black newspapers served local as well as regional and national audiences, helping to foster a sense of community and shared interests among African Americans living in different areas of the country.

Learn More about The Power of The Press

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (22)

Historic Members of the Harlem Writers Guild

Immersed in progressive politics, they were all bound by a revolutionary spirit and a strong sense of compassion for the individual struggles of one another.

Explore the Constellation about Historic Members of the Harlem Writers Guild

Educational Resources

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Learning Journeys for the Classroom, Home and Museum Visits

Join us in exploring stories of African Americans in the Arts throughout February with a special focus on art as a platform for social justice.

Learn more about Learning Journeys for the Classroom, Home and Museum Visits

Taking the Stage (Performing Arts)

Through their achievements on the stage and screen, African Americans have used the power of performance to fuel social change.

The cultural heritage of the American Negro is one of America’s richest treasures. Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) Dancer, director, choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (24)

Taking the Stage Exhibition

Throughout Taking the Stage, visitors can contemplate how the roles black artists played on the stage and screen reflected changing aspirations, struggles, and realities for black people in American society.

Learn More about Taking the Stage Exhibition

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (25)

You Should Know: Harry Belafonte, Actor and Activist

From being the first Black American to win an Emmy to using his voice and his wallet to finance social justice, Harry Belafonte was dedicated himself to the improvement of his people and humanity across the globe.

Read the Story about You Should Know: Harry Belafonte, Actor and Activist

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (26)

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Transforming Dance around the World

Alvin Ailey's influence prevails in a body of work that continues to be performed more than 50 years later and a dance theater company that continues to flourish.

Read the Story about Transforming Dance around the World

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (27)

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Actresses Who Refused Typecasting

Through their achievements in the dramatic arts, African American women have broken barriers, enriched American culture, and inspired audiences around the world.

Read the Story about Actresses Who Refused Typecasting

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (28)

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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 expressionand even social critique.

Read the Story about Making African America: The Arts

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (29)

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A New African American Identity: The Harlem Renaissance

Harlem became a destination for African Americans of all backgrounds who shared common experiences of slavery, emancipation and racial oppression, as well as a determination to forge a new identity as free people.

Read the Story about A New African American Identity: The Harlem Renaissance

Educational Resources

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (30)

North Star: A Digital Journey of African American History

Explore African American history through digital activities on the Smithsonian Learning Lab platform. The activities, or collections, have gathered objects, stories, videos and thinking questions all in one place.

Start Your Journey about North Star: A Digital Journey of African American History

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert in African American history and culture, I can provide you with information related to the concepts mentioned in this article. African American artists, including poets, writers, visual artists, and dancers, have played a significant role in driving social change through their crafts. They draw inspiration from their ancestors' ancient rites of passage and the shared hopes of liberty, infusing their creative expressions with the pulsating beats of progress.

Black History Month 2024: "Art of Resistance" The article mentions that the museum is celebrating Black History Month 2024 by highlighting the "art of resistance" and the artists who used their crafts to uplift the race, speak truth to power, and inspire a nation. This theme recognizes the historical and ongoing contributions of African American artists in challenging oppression and advocating for social justice.

Cultural Expressions (Literature and Poetry) The article emphasizes the importance of cultural expressions, including literature and poetry, in shaping lives and communities. African American writers and poets have played a crucial role in exalting important issues and figures in African American history, as well as preserving underrepresented stories. They have been at the forefront of cultural renaissances, such as the Black Women's Literary Renaissance of the 1970s, and have used their voices to reshape Black culture both nationally and globally.

Icons and Luminaries The article mentions several influential African American artists. Here are some key figures highlighted:

  1. Phillis Wheatley (c.1753–1784): A poet whose literary impact is celebrated through a collection of her works and correspondence with George Washington.
  2. Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000): A poet who became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poetry, "Annie Allen."
  3. Amanda Gorman: The first Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, known for her powerful performance at the presidential inauguration.
  4. Langston Hughes (1901-1967): A poet, social activist, novelist, and playwright who was a significant figure of the Harlem Renaissance.
  5. Ta-Nehisi Coates: An author, journalist, and activist known for his works on race and social issues, including "Between the World and Me."
  6. Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806): A mathematician, astronomer, and almanac author who made significant contributions in his fields.

Lorraine Hansberry: Playwright, Writer, and Activist Lorraine Hansberry, known for her seminal Broadway play "A Raisin in the Sun," drew inspiration from her family's landmark court case against discriminatory real estate covenants in Chicago. Her work continues to inspire and shed light on important social issues.

The Power of Poetry: Pre-Civil War to Reconstruction Poetry has always played a significant role in African American literature. It has been a medium for accomplished and innovative writers to express their experiences and perspectives. African American poets have used poetry to convey emotions, challenge societal norms, and advocate for social change.

The New Negro Renaissance to the Black Arts Movement After World War I, artists, writers, and musicians in black communities began expressing themselves in new ways that embraced an African past, racial pride, and artistic and political freedom. This period, known as the New Negro Renaissance, laid the foundation for the later Black Arts Movement, which aimed to create art that reflected the experiences and aspirations of Black people.

The Power of The Press Black newspapers played a crucial role in fostering a sense of community and shared interests among African Americans across different regions. They served local, regional, and national audiences, providing a platform for African Americans to voice their perspectives and advocate for social change.

Taking the Stage (Performing Arts) African Americans have used the power of performance on stage and screen to fuel social change. Through their achievements, they have broken barriers, enriched American culture, and inspired audiences worldwide.

These are just a few highlights from the concepts mentioned in the article. African American artists have made significant contributions to various fields, and their work continues to shape our understanding of history, culture, and social justice.

Celebrate Black History Month 2024 (2024)
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